According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 64,000 persons died from overdoses in 2016. Trump spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the formal declaration was delayed because of the "in-depth legal process" required to do so.
"For too long we've allowed drugs to ravage Americans cities and towns", he said.
The move allows for some limited steps, such as allowing patients in rural parts of the country to access medication for addiction treatment through telemedicine, but will not make any additional federal money available to confront a crisis that previous year killed more than 64,000 Americans.
"After we review and evaluate the commission's findings, I will quickly move to implement an approximate and appropriate recommendation", Trump said.
The president shared a personal story of his experience with addiction, through his brother Fred, who struggled with alcohol.
Deaths caused by opioid overdose have almost quadrupled since 1999, which is why Mr. Trump said he was making addiction a top priority.More news: How powerful is your passport?
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First Lady Melania Trump joined her husband in the East Wing to offer prayers to those fighting and recovering from drug addiction.
The current budget for the Public Health Emergency Fund is $57,000. He says the order is just a first step. "I'll tell you what, we've made a big impact, but still, we need the wall".
From left, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and President Donald Trump attend a panel discussion on opioid and drug abuse in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, March 29, 2017.
By law, federal Medicaid dollars can not go to facilities that treat mental illness or substance use disorders if they have more than 16 beds, a policy that dates to a time when federal officials did not want to be in the practice of reimbursing state psychiatric hospitals.
These so-called medication-assisted treatments continue to be stigmatized in many places.
The declaration follows a bombshell report from The Washington Post and CBS News' "60 Minutes" implicating multiple members of Congress in the passage of a bill that significantly weakened the Drug Enforcement Agency's enforcement capabilities in the opioid crisis in favor of lobbying by pharmaceutical companies. It has developed into one of the nation's most urgent public health issues, claiming a life every 19 minutes, according to the U.S. Surgeon General.