Can a Public Health Emergency or a State of Emergency Help Get More People into Opioid Addiction Treatment?

Danny Chavez cuts open a dose of Suboxone.

Many people understand that opioid addiction treatment is perhaps one of the only ways to ensure that individuals in need of medical help for substance abuse will begin to recover safely. Sadly, not enough individuals in the U.S. understand the benefits of these types of programs, and certainly not as many people who need treatment actually receive it. Though our government is attempting to ensure that more people get the help they need, many feel that more could be done.

The recent declaration that upgraded the country’s long-term opioid crisis to a serious public health emergency is changing the way many people look at the problem. It may also help more people get treatment, as it could make it easier for people covered under Medicare to seek out-of-network help and it could provide telemedicine to people in rural areas. However, according to, the problem could be addressed much more thoroughly—and people would be more likely to receive treatment for addiction—if the government were to declare the opioid crisis to be an actual state of emergency rather than a public health emergency.

A state of emergency could help us fight the opioid addiction crisis in a number of ways, from potentially making naloxone more accessible, especially to people in rural areas, to creating more support for medication-assisted treatment to even removing some of the stigma surrounding addiction. One of the most effective things this declaration could accomplish, however, is to make funding for addiction treatment more available.

Every year, thousands of individuals in the U.S. live with addiction and do not seek medical help available in the form of treatment. This is often due to the financial aspects of seeking care, especially when inpatient treatment (which is usually most effective) is the most expensive option. Declaring this crisis to be a national emergency could actually force treatment to become more affordable and make more people able to get the help they need in the form of medical care.

Sadly, it does not seem that the declaration of a public health emergency will create these same benefits or even similar ones. While the outcome could be helpful in some ways, the proposed changes barely scratch the surface when it comes to the severity of the opioid crisis. Also, when it comes to making sure more people have access to and will seek out safe, reliable, and professional care, a public health emergency does little to create change. This is why, more than ever before, people have begun to demand that the government declare the opioid addiction crisis a state of emergency, if for no other reason than to make treatment more accessible, more affordable, and more of an option for those who are living every day with addiction.

Making sure you or your loved one seeks rehab is paramount in the process of recovery and fighting opioid addiction. Don’t let the stigmas associated with addiction or the financial aspect of seeking treatment stop you from getting the help you need.