The National Council for Behavioral Health is pleased that President Trump has acknowledged what we already know: the opioid epidemic is a public health crisis of unprecedented proportions. Unfortunately, we remain with more questions than answers about the specific efforts he plans to take in response to the crisis sweeping our nation.
Resolving this national crisis requires sustained commitment, a massive expansion of addiction treatment capacity and increased federal resources. Yet, today the President did not give any indication that he intends to call for increased treatment funding. Worse, the White House implied that funds could be shuffled from important existing health programs to cover opioid treatment—it’s robbing Peter to pay Paul, with life-threatening consequences.
While we applaud the President’s hints that he will use the emergency declaration to reduce barriers to residential substance use care and the use of telemedicine for prescribing medication-assisted opioid treatment, these steps are far from enough. We owe it to every grieving family, every devastated community and every cash-strapped state in this nation to say, “We are in this for the long haul.”
The White House said the President’s commitment to this issue won’t end with today’s declaration. We hope this is true and pledge to work with the Administration and Congress in the months and years ahead on real solutions to the crisis. There are many ways our government can take action to improve access to addiction care; for example, by expanding the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Act that allows more people to access comprehensive, coordinated treatment services.
Emergency declarations help us sit up and take notice. But without meaningful action, they remain empty promises. We must follow today’s words with real resources and real investments. People are literally dying for help.
The National Council for Behavioral Health is the unifying voice of America’s health care organizations that deliver mental health and addictions treatment and services. Together with our 2,900 member organizations serving over 10 million adults, children and families living with mental illnesses and addictions, the National Council is committed to all Americans having access to comprehensive, high-quality care that affords every opportunity for recovery. The National Council helped introduce Mental Health First Aid USA and more than 1 million Americans have been trained.