Last week, President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency. The declaration allows federal agencies “to use every appropriate emergency authority to fight the opioid crisis.” The declaration also allows “for the shifting of resources within HIV/AIDS programs to help people eligible for those programs receive substance abuse treatment, which is important given the connection between HIV transmission and substance abuse.” The President has not authorized any additional grant funding in response to the emergency. The declaration allows the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to access the Public Health Emergency Fund, which has only approximately $57,000 available. In addition, up to 5% of the funds available under each of the Ryan White Parts A and B supplemental pools may be shifted from Ryan White grantees and reallocated to ensure access to care in a public health emergency.
The Secretary of HHS is also permitted to waive certain Ryan White program requirements in a national public health emergency to improve the health and safety of those receiving care under the Public Health Service Act, as well as the general public. HHS has not yet indicated which, if any, requirements the agency intends to waive. HHS’s waiver authority is limited to the time period for which the public health emergency declaration exists. The public health emergency declaration extends for a 90-day period and can be renewed.