The Trump Administration’s Response to the Opioid Epidemic

In October 2017, President Trump declared the opioid crisis a national public health emergency - but beyond that initial announcement, the administration has done relatively little to actually address the epidemic. Key jobs at the Office of National Drug Control Policy have gone unfilled, and the White House has not moved to allocate the funds that would be needed to make a difference.

What We’re Seeking:

  • Records of all actions the Attorney General has taken to allow for expanded access to remote prescribing of medicines for substance abuse treatment in response to the opioid epidemic
  • Communications between the Office of the Attorney General and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding telemedicine as a response to the opioid crisis
  • Records from the DEA seeking information related to telemedicine
  • Any funding requests HHS has sent to, or prepared for, Congress requesting the appropriation of additional funds to the Public Health Emergency Fund to be used in addressing the opioid crisis
  • Records of actions HHS has taken to allow opioid treatment through telemedicine
  • Any temporary appointments or assignments of personnel made by HHS under the authority provided by the declaration of the opioid crisis as a public health emergency


On October 26, 2017, President Trump directed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency.The emergency declaration included a call for increased use of telemedicine to allow doctors to remotely treat patients who live in rural or hard-to-reach areas, a policy change that would require action by the Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Months later,  public reports suggest that little action has been taken to address the opioid crisis and no policies have been implemented in order to ease barriers to substance abuse treatment by telemedicine.

This apparent inaction comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported record increases in deaths involving opioids. American Oversight has opened an investigation to find out what steps, if any, the Trump administration has taken to address this issue.