October 23, 2018

Warren, Murray Release GAO Report Showing Trump Administration's Opioid Response Falls Short of Big Promises

Report shows Administration has done little to make use of highly publicized emergency declaration; Meanwhile, Congress has led response efforts with new funding and recently passed bipartisan legislation to fight the opioid crisis

Text of Report (PDF)

Washington, DC - Today, United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) released a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) showing that the public health emergency announced by President Trump has resulted in almost no meaningful action by the Trump Administration. While President Trump made big promises to communities ravaged by the epidemic, GAO found his Administration only made use of three of the emergency authorities available-one to reduce paperwork, one to hasten pilot programs states were already developing, and one regarding research. GAO also found 14 other authorities went entirely unused for a variety of reasons.

"Communities are desperately in need of more help to address the opioid epidemic. President Trump, as this report shows, has broken his promises to do his part.  I've asked this administration time and time again to show what actions they are taking to meaningfully address this crisis. No response. To me, it looks like empty words and broken promises. Hand-waving about faster paperwork and speeding up a few grants is not enough - the Trump Administration needs to do far more to stop the opioid epidemic," said Senator Warren.

"This report is more evidence that while President Trump has made big promises to score headlines about the fight against opioid addiction, he doesn't care enough to follow through on them with the sweeping actions needed to address the crisis with all the tools available. While President Trump's repeated failures to live up to his promises are disappointing, I'm glad Congress has been able to lead the way on taking meaningful steps to help the families and communities on the frontlines of this crisis by providing additional funds and passing a comprehensive bill to address the root causes and ripple effects of this epidemic. And we're not done yet; I'm going to keep fighting for more action and more resources that our communities so badly need," said Senator Murray.

The report is the latest example of the Trump Administration's promises on the opioid epidemic not measuring up to the reality. While President Trump has made sweeping claims about his intention to address the opioid crisis, they have been undercut by minimal follow up.

  • Despite promising to help addiction through treatment and recovery services, he is working to cut Medicaid which helps provide access to treatment.
  • His 2018 budget also proposed a dramatic 95 percent cut to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
  • While the Trump Administration announced the President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis with great fanfare in March 2017, the Administration has so far failed to act on most of the 56 recommendations from the Commission's final report.  

Meanwhile, Congress provided new funds to address the crisis in its FY 2019 spending agreement, and recently passed the bipartisan Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act, which contains a wide range of proposals to respond to the root causes and ripple effects of the opioid crisis.

In April, Senator Warren and Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) introduced the Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency (CARE) Act to provide the resources needed to begin treating the opioid crisis like the critical public health emergency it is.  The CARE Act will provide states and communities with $100 billion in federal funding over ten years, including more than $800 million a year directly to tribal governments and organizations.