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Becky Vaughn

Vice President of Addictions

A Call to Action for Presidential Candidates on the Addictions Crisis

February 1, 2016 | Addictions | Leadership | Treatment | Comments
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Americans are dying from addictions at alarming rates.

The 2016 Presidential candidates have begun to talk about addressing addictions, but what are the specific policies and priorities they can put forth or support that will actually turn the corner on our nation’s addiction crisis?

Here are the problems we face and the proposed solutions we expect from the next President.

Problem: Effective treatment isn’t available in all communities.

Solution: Like any health condition, all levels of care must be accessible to those in need in every community including prevention, intervention, appropriate levels of treatment and recovery support services.

  • Continue full funding for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant to preserve the critical safety-net for people and services not covered by other insurance.
  • Ensure access to a full and robust benefit for addictions by Medicare, Medicaid and all commercial insurers (through parity enforcement), including the use of FDA-approved medications.
  • Bring the Excellence Act to every state to ensure comprehensive, quality integrated addictions care is available for all Americans.

Problem: Addiction to opioids including heroin is the fastest growing drug problem and drug overdose deaths now are now greater than the deaths attributed to motor vehicle accidents, homicides and suicides.

Solution: A comprehensive approach must be supported and funded to reduce the negative impact of these and other drugs on individuals, families and communities.

  • Require appropriate education and stricter oversight on opioid use for prescribers and patients.
  • Support the Comprehensive Addictions and Recovery Act (CARA), which includes evidence-based strategies and funding to address opioid and other drug problems through prevention, treatment and the criminal justice system.
  • Ensure access to age-appropriate quality treatment including all FDA-approved medications.
  • Increase funding for and access to naloxone to prevent deaths from overdose in emergency situations and require referral to treatment strategies for those patients treated in health and/or law enforcement settings.
  • With alcohol as the number one drug of choice and leading cause of drug-related problems, national strategies (including from ONDCP, SAMHSA, CDC) must also include the reduction of alcohol abuse and addiction.

Problem: Children, adolescents and young adults receive mixed messages about substance use and very few receive evidence-based prevention services.

Solution: A President who recognizes the value of investing in evidence-based prevention efforts to stop harmful use and addictions from developing. Opioid addiction may be the driver for high rates of overdose deaths, but evidence-based prevention programs address the roots of all types of substance addiction – whether opioids, alcohol or synthetics are the drug of choice.

  • Increase federal funding for community-based prevention efforts; school-based programs and strategies to reduce binge drinking on high school and college campuses, reduce other risky behaviors and support healthy and safe decisions.
  • Increase alcohol taxes as a proven strategy to reduce the harmful overuse of alcohol.
  • Increase education efforts on the dangers of marijuana use on developing brains and enforcement strategies to prevent underage access to marijuana.

Problem: People with nonviolent drug charges and convictions are overburdening the criminal justice system.

Solution: Stem the tide of people coming in and ensure appropriate supports are accessible to people upon release from incarceration to prevent recidivism.

  • Continue leadership at ONDCP that focuses on prevention and treatment and other demand reduction strategies.
  • Incentivize and support the establishment of more drug courts in communities across the US diverting nonviolent offenders to treatment instead of prison.
  • Ensure supports are available to those on parole or released from incarceration including health benefits, employment support and housing options to help with the transition to community and civilian life.
  • Support the “ban the box” initiative so that employers consider a job candidate’s qualifications first instead of the stigma of a conviction record.