Trump donates third-quarter salary to fight opioid epidemic
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will donate his third-quarter salary to the Department of Health and Human Services’ efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, the Trump administration said Thursday.
Acting Health and Human Services Secretary Eric Hargan, speaking with reporters at Thursday’s White House press briefing, said the donation shows Trump’s “sense of duty to the American people.”
Trump’s money will be used on a “large-scale public awareness campaign about the dangers of opioid addiction,” Hargan said.
In October, Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency, telling an audience in the East Room of the White House that “we can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic.”
“This epidemic is a national health emergency,” he said. “Nobody has seen anything like what is going on now.”
Trump then called for creativity when it comes to fighting opioids, suggesting a “really tough, really big, really great” advertising campaign that would aim to convince people never to do drugs in the first place.
Since taking office in January, Trump has opted to donate his salary to a series of government agencies and efforts. His first-quarter salary went to the National Park Service and his second-quarter pay went to the Department of Education.
Hargan noted on Thursday that Trump’s pledge to fight opioid abuse is personal.
“You heard him share the story in his opioid speech about how he lost his own brother to alcoholism,” he said.
During his October announcement, Trump personalized his anti-drug message by discussing how his elder brother’s struggle with addiction had led him to never drink or smoke.
Fred Trump Jr. struggled with alcoholism for much of his life and died in 1981 at age 43. Trump has cited his brother’s short life when pushing for tougher drug enforcement and awareness.
At the October event,Trump directed Hargan to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency under the Public Health Services Act — which directs federal agencies to provide more grant money to combat the epidemic — not a national emergency through the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.
The difference between the two orders is money and scope.
If Trump had used the Stafford act, the federal government would have been able to tap into funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund to combat opioids.
Under the Public Health Services Act designation, no additional federal funding will automatically be directed to the crisis, a White House official said at the time, but federal agencies will be directed to devote more grant money already in their budgets to the problem and take “action to overcome bureaucratic delays and inefficiencies in the hiring process,” according to a fact sheet on Trump’s order.
The Trump administration has said it will work with Congress to fund the public health emergency and to increase federal funding for it in year-end budget deals currently being negotiated in Congress.
Trump administration aides have still not detailed whether they will ask Congress to add money to the public health emergency declaration fund, the primary avenue the Trump administration plans to use to combat the epidemic.