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The opioid epidemic affected 2 million Americans in 201, and killed more people last year have ever died in a single year from car accidents, gun violence, or HIV/AIDS. (Photo: @fox28columbus/Twitter)

Trump's $100K Salary Donation to Opioid Crisis Denounced As 'Meaningless Gesture'

While White House touts president's "extreme generosity," critics say donation is a drop in the bucket

Julia Conley

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.

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."

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 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.

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