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President Trump speaking about his plan to confront the opioid crisis, in March. Photo: Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The number of overdose deaths in the U.S. “has begun to plateau,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said yesterday, in advance of a White House event today at which President Trump will sign Congress' most recent opioids bill into law.

What's new: Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the death rate holding steady, after years of increases.

  • “Plateauing at such a high level is hardly an opportunity to declare victory,” Azar said. “But the concerted efforts of communities across America are beginning to turn the tide.”

What’s next: The legislation Trump will sign this afternoon includes a couple of important policies, including expanded access to medication-assisted treatment. And health care companies are joining in with announcements of their own.

  • Express Scripts is announcing that it successfully redirected many of its clients toward shorter prescriptions and safer drugs.
  • Emergent BioSolutions will announce that it’s donating doses of naloxone, the overdose-revival drug, to every public library and YMCA in the country, senior White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told Axios earlier this week.

Meanwhile, HHS announced a new initiative yesterday to improve Medicaid treatment for women who are dependent on opioids and are pregnant or have recently given birth.

  • The 5-year model will include up to $64.6 million in grants to states, with the goal of delivering treatment to women who need it and connecting them with other support networks.

Go deeper: The youngest victims of the opioid epidemic

Go deeper

Trump can't quit mainstream media

Bob Woodward and Robert Costa are interviewed by Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press" in September. Photo: William B. Plowman/NBC via Getty Images

Bob Woodward and Robert Costa issued a rebuttal on Friday to a statement by former President Donald Trump that misrepresented their reporting — and once again showed the 45th president's thin skin about mainstream media.

Driving the news: "Former President Trump said ... our book, 'Peril,' implied that he was planning to go to war with China," the statement begins. "[W]e report that Chairman of Joint Chiefs Mark Milley 'believed that Trump did not want a war' before or after the 2020 election."

NY declares state of emergency amid concerns over Omicron COVID variant

Governor Kathy Hochul makes an announcement about a new plan transforming Penn Station on Nov. 3, 2021. Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Friday declared a state of emergency amid rising COVID-19 cases and the newly-identified Omicron variant of the virus.

Driving the news: The declaration enables the state to acquire supplies to fight a potential surge in cases, increase hospital capacity and combat potential staff shortages, NBC's local affiliate reports.

4 hours ago - Health

First cases of COVID-19 Omicron variant discovered in U.K.

People wearing masks walk in London on Nov. 25. Photo: Li Ying/Xinhua via Getty Images

Two cases of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant were detected in the United Kingdom overnight, the U.K. Health Security Agency announced Saturday.

Why it matters: The discovery comes as the world scrambles to respond to concerns over the new variant, discovered in South Africa earlier this week.