Toward the end of 2017, President Trump declared the opioid crisis a nationwide public health emergency, recognizing that drug overdose deaths have nearly doubled in the past 10 years, to more than 64,000 in 2016, and a majority of those were due to heroin and other opioids. His Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis issued 56 recommendations on how to deal with it. The Commission consisted of Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey and the Chairman, Charlie Baker, Governor of Massachusetts, Roy Cooper, Governor of North Carolina, Patrick J. Kennedy, former U.S. Representative from Rhode Island, Bertha Madras, former Deputy Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and Pam Bondi, Attorney General of Florida.
The panel was meant to identify sources of federal funding that could be redirected to things like medical treatments and long-term support services. The commission was also supposed to identify areas in the United States where access to treatment was limited, consider ways to prevent opioid addiction, and identify possible changes to the criminal justice system to help people after they are released from prison.
Among the recommendations made by the Commission were that the government increase access to substance abuse treatment by requiring that health insurance companies cover it. The Department of Labor, they suggested, should have the authority to penalize insurance companies that do not adequately cover addiction treatment. They also recommended that the president should ask Congress for more money to funnel toward addiction treatment.
Unfortunately, most of these suggestions have yet to be met. No clear strategy has been put in place, and no money has been reallocated. In fact, the Office of Management and Budget has announced plans to cut the budget for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy’s (ONDCP) by 95 percent. The ONDCP oversees two important grants, the High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) and Drug-Free Communities (DFC). HIDTA helps federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement officers in areas with particularly large problems with drug trafficking. DFC is a federal drug prevention program, which provides funding to communities in an effort to reduce substance abuse in young people.
Proposed changes would also cut more than half of the funding for health workforce programs under the Health Resources and Services Administration, which helps send medical professionals to rural areas and other underserved populations. Also at risk is almost one-third of the funding for SAMHSA‘s Mental Health Programs of Regional and National Significance grants, which cover everything from suicide prevention to HIV/AIDS education.
The 2019 budget isn’t yet finalized, and over 150 groups have protested these changes since they were first announced. The Addiction Policy Forum, a group that seeks to elevate awareness of addiction and to improve the national policy, wrote in a letter to Trump that the ONDCP’s ability to carry out its mission would be all but crippled.
If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504.