At a White House press briefing on Thursday, officials praised President Donald Trump's "extreme generosity" as they announced that he would be donating his third-quarter salary to help combat the opioid crisis—but critics raised questions about the gesture amid the scope of the epidemic as well as the president's agenda which has shown little concern for generosity towards Americans who are most in need.
White House estimated true cost of opioid epidemic topped $500 BILLION in 2015. Sorry, but donating $100,000 is a meaningless gesture. https://t.co/BvfEABseMw— Nick Wing (@nickpwing) November 30, 2017
Trump's quarterly salary amounts to $100,000. According to experts on the opioid epidemic, which killed 64,000 Americans in 2016, about $190 billion over the next decade would be needed to make a significant impact on the medical needs of those impacted by the prevalence of heroin, prescription painkillers, and synthetic opioids.
Acting Health and Human Services Secretary Eric Hargan said Trump's salary would be donated "to the planning and design of a large-scale public awareness campaign about the dangers of opioid addiction," adding, "It's his compassion above all that drives his interest to the issue to which HHS is going to devote his donation: America's devastating opioid crisis."
Acting HHS sec says Trump is donating his 3rd quarter salary to HHS to fight the opioid crisis. So, 100K.— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) November 30, 2017
Trump's budget calls for cutting funding for the opioid crisis by $97 million. https://t.co/RbZtNLHyff
Hargan's declaration that "public awareness" is what's needed to combat opioids contrasts with the opinions of public health experts like Dr. Andrew Kolodny of Brandeis University, who told Vox.com last month that "We need a plan with details, and we need an appropriation request in the billions to build a treatment system. Until effective outpatient treatment is easier to access than pain pills, heroin, and fentanyl, overdose deaths will remain at record-high levels."
Thursday's announcement came a month after Trump declared the epidemic a public health emergency—a designation for which there is currently only $57,000 in federal funding available. He declined to categorize the crisis, which affected at least two million people in 2015, as a national emergency—which would have opened up far more resources and funding.
While political reporters who have covered the epidemic scoffed at the notion that Trump's gesture would make a difference, other critics noted that a $100,000 charitable donation has little practical value coming from an administration that's pushing the Republican tax plan—expected to take away health coverage from 13 million people and raise taxes on lower- and middle-class families.
So, Trump wants his 3rd quarter salary to be used on advertising telling people how bad opioid addiction is. All while GOP cuts taxes for wealthy and cuts funding for health benefits to those who need help— kim oconnor (@kimoco) November 30, 2017