A year into Biden’s presidency, we’re only burying more overdose victims

In 1999, there were just under 20,000 fatal overdoses. Today, overdose deaths are five times higher – more than 100,000 in the 12 months ending May 2021, according to the CDC’s most recent data, tragically delayed.

As a member of the 2017 Presidential Commission on Combating Addiction and the Opioid Crisis and a national addiction recovery advocate who worked hard to elect the Biden/Harris ticket, respectively, we had a front row seat to the failure of the Trump administration to properly address this issue. crisis. When Joe Biden took office, our hopes were high. But nearly a year after the change of administration, things have not improved. Not by far.

What we lack is a coordinated policy response across the federal government that doesn’t just portray small, incremental changes as “progress”. Biden must urgently set ambitious goals to reverse the tide of fatal overdoses, invoke the full powers of the executive, and use a mighty bully pulpit to drive change. A new strategy should focus on four key areas.

The first concerns emergency actions and declarations. Our streets are flooded with poisonous drugs. As a result, President BidenJoe BidenDoomsday predictions for Democrats are no guarantees of midterm failure A review of President Biden’s first year on border policy Vilsack accuses China of breaking trade deal-era commitments Trump MORE and his administration should also flood the streets with the resources needed to respond to overdoses and take aggressive action to shut down illicit fentanyl factories here at home and abroad.

While the Trump administration declared a public health emergency for opioids (which has since been renewed multiple times), prior to COVID-19, the Public Health Emergency Fund had almost no resources other than the federal government. could use to fund a response. Now, however, the fund has important resources the Biden administration could quickly use. Leaders should also expand this declaration to apply, at a minimum, to all substance use disorders, given that the overdose crisis extends far beyond opioids. We recommend expanding the emergency to all mental health and addiction disorders, due to very high comorbidity rates and the devastating mental health crisis facing our youth today.

The most powerful tool would be to trigger declarations of emergency for states under the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, an action that has been advised at President TrumpDonald TrumpDoomsday predictions for Democrats are no guarantees of midterm failure A review of President Biden’s first year on border policy Hannity after Jan. 6 texted McEnany ‘no more stolen campaign speeches in a five-point plan for Trump MORE by the Opioid Commission in 2017. While the law has always been called upon for natural disasters, its authority has also been put to good use during the pandemic. In reality, FEMA has already provided tens of billions of dollars in COVID emergency aid to states. These same mechanisms could be used to get immediate money to state and local governments to respond to the overdose crisis with fentanyl test strips, sterile syringe programs, mobile crisis response teams. , community recovery and risk reduction organizations, and more.

President Biden should also make it easier to use naloxone in all public places — just like first aid kits and AEDs — and pressure the FDA to make the drug available without a prescription. After all, the agency expressed support for doing this almost three years ago.

The second area of ​​action needs to be insurance parity for mental health and addictions issues. It is essential that we reduce our dependence on short-term “fixes” and look at the big picture. Example: the recently announced “unprecedented” harm reduction grant program to “address the epidemic of substance use and overdose in the country”. The program offers only $30 million to be spread over three years, which is far from what it would take to truly deal with a public health crisis of this magnitude.

We don’t rely on heavy grant programs to treat cancer or COVID-19. Instead, we ensure that our health care financing systems reimburse necessary treatment services. For mental health and addiction, this means fully implementing the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 to eliminate unwarranted denials of coverage that too often prevent people from getting treatment. ‘aid. labor secretary Marty WalchMarty WalshOne year into Biden’s presidency, we’re only burying more overdose victims Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey enters gubernatorial race The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Biden speaks, Senate balks MORE has taken aggressive steps to do just that in employer-sponsored plans. We look forward to the administration following suit for Medicaid and market plans, which disproportionately cover those at higher risk of overdose.

The third area of ​​intervention should be improving access to drug treatment (MAT). While the administration has taken steps to relax a requirement which limits the prescription of buprenorphine, a life-saving drug to treat opioid addiction, the president has not forcefully stated his support for congressional bills to eliminate the requirement altogether, despite campaign promises.

The fourth and final area of ​​intervention must be strong leadership at the federal level. The president should take decisive action to cut agency silos, pressure Congress to make necessary statutory changes, and guide state and local governments.

We desperately need a prime-time address on mental health and addiction and a strong personal commitment to care. When the overdose death rate crossed the 100,000 mark for the first time in November, Biden missed a critical opportunity by only issuing a written statement.

The administration must also lead by example when it comes to public health updates and information dissemination. Dr Anthony FauciAnthony FauciLet’s Stop Saying ‘Clear Cases’ – It Doesn’t Help should regularly discuss the impact of COVID-19 on mental health and addiction, and mental health experts such as Dr. Raul Gupta, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, should be known to the American public. Visibility matters.

With each passing day, we sacrifice more and more Americans to the highly treatable brain disease of addiction. Too many families are burying their loved ones because of a lack of a coordinated response from our elected leaders. The roadmap for dealing with this crisis is clear. President Biden, we implore you to use it.

Former U.S. Representative Patrick J. Kennedy, founder of the Kennedy Forum, is the lead author of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. He currently co-chairs the National Suicide Prevention Action Alliance’s National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Response to COVID-19 (National Response) and the Health Integration Task Force. behavior from the Bipartisan Policy Center. Ryan Hampton is a nationally recognized recovery advocate, community organizer and individual in long-term addiction recovery. He is the author of “Unstable: How the Purdue Pharma bankruptcy failed the victims of the American overdose crisis.”

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