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Tuesday, April 05, 2016

April is alcohol awareness month - prevention, treatment and recovery

Advocacy Groups, Lawmakers Redouble Efforts to Make Drug Abuse a Key Campaign 2016 Campaign Issue

It's April, and time to recongize Alcohol Awareness Month.

Communities are taking on important prevention initiatives
like National Alcohol Screening Day.
Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen, recovering drug addict Crystal Oertle of Ohio, Young People In Recovery CEO Justin Riley, President Barack Obama and Dr. Sanjay Gupta (left to right) participate in the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit on March 29, 2016 in Atlanta. The panel discussion addressed the issue of drug abuse in the U.S.
President Obama discusses the ugency of druge and alcohol prevention, treatment and recovery

In 2016, it's important that addiction prevention, treatment and recovery are on the top of the minds of the presidential candidates - throughout the political campaigns and into the next presidency.

How will we keep the discussion going? In fact, the Wall Street Journal wrote about advocacy and why it's so important for addiction treatment providers speak to the candidates wherever they are about the issues that matter most.

While not all of us might have the opportunity to sit face-to-face with the political candidates, we do have an opportunity to sit down with the decision makers for our states and districts whenever we meet them in our state capitals or in Washington DC. This year Congress will review a number of appropriations and bills that may affect addictions work and how agencies are paid for prevention, treatment and recovery services.

ATLANTA—New Hampshire is a state devastated by heroin and painkiller overdose deaths. Political candidates of both parties spoke regularly about addiction during the presidential primary election, offering policy proposals and telling personal stories of how drug abuse touched their lives. But, after the balloting on Feb. 9, the issue began to recede from the campaign trail.

Now, elected officials and advocacy groups are redoubling efforts to make substance abuse a key topic for the duration of the 2016 race. They received a boost from President Barack Obama’s appearance at the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta, on Tuesday, when he detailed the administration’s new steps to combat the opioid epidemic and called on lawmakers to do more.

“The breadth of the problem is so demanding that candidates for president have put the issue on their front burner,” said Republican Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky, who launched Operation Unite, the group that organizes the summit. “We need a national program, a campaign if you will, that comprehensively deals with the problem.”


A recent nationwide poll by the Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 62% of respondents said drug use is a serious problem in their community and 68% said not enough was being done to improve substance-abuse treatment. 

Around one-third said prescription painkillers and heroin—which caused more than 28,000 overdose deaths in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—are an extremely or very serious problem in their community.

Groups around the U.S. that work on addiction-related issues are arranging forums in primary and battleground states to press candidates to back up their expressions of compassion with specific policy recommendations. Such events have taken place in states including Iowa, New Hampshire, Kentucky and West Virginia, said Carol McDaid, principal at Capitol Decisions, a lobbying firm in Washington, D.C., that works on addiction and mental health issues.

The National Council for Behavioral Health, which represents addiction-treatment providers, is urging candidates to address four points, including expanded access to treatment programs and passage of an opioid-addiction bill that has cleared the Senate and is awaiting action in the House. “We encouraged our members to talk to candidates wherever they might be,” said Becky Vaughn, vice president of addictions for the organization.

The substance-abuse issue is drawing attention in numerous Senate and House races around the country as well, including in states where the GOP seat is seen as vulnerable. In Ohio, which also has been hit hard by the opioid crisis, incumbent Republican Sen. Rob Portman and Democrat Ted Strickland, the former governor, have highlighted the subject. So, too, have Sen. Pat Toomey, the Republican incumbent in Pennsylvania, and his potential opponent, Democrat Joe Sestak.

In New Hampshire, a political nonprofit, One Nation, has sought to bolster Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s* re-election bid in part by running an ad highlighting her work on legislation to fight the opioid problem.

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act would expand availability of the opioid-reversal drug naloxone and strengthen databases used to track prescriptions, among other things. It passed with near-unanimous support, including that of Ms. Ayotte and Mr. Portman, who sponsored the measure. Presidential candidates Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) missed the vote.

Rep. Frank Guinta, a New Hampshire Republican and member of the House congressional caucus on prescription drug abuse, said addiction continually comes up in stops around the state. Ahead of the New Hampshire primary, he called on the presidential candidates to propose specific plans to take on the heroin and painkiller problem. 

He later wrote an editorial for a South Carolina paper urging voters there to continue imploring candidates on the subject.

“This has now become the single most-important issue for me,” Mr. Guinta said. “We need to continue that pressure.”

Substance abuse could also figure prominently in battleground states grappling with serious opioid-addiction problems once the contest moves to the general-election phase. Chief among them is Ohio, where 1,988 people died of opioid-related overdoses in 2014. Not only is the state closely contested in presidential elections, but it also is hosting the GOP convention in July.

In Arizona, another potential battleground, Republican Rep. Paul Gosar said the drug issue comes up frequently in discussions of border security—since so much heroin is trafficked through the state from Mexico—and veteran affairs, because many former military personnel wind up hooked on prescription drugs. “Overdoses are a critical issue in my district,” he said.

Ms. McDaid, of Capitol Decisions, said much of the discussion in the addiction-treatment community at the moment centers on how to capitalize on the attention Mr. Obama has focused on the opioid epidemic. “It’s the shot in the arm that we needed,” she said. “We don’t want to have this as a one-off—the president comes and there’s media coverage for three days, and then everybody goes away.”

62% of respondents who responded to a recent nationwide poll by the Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that drug use is a serious problem in their community and 68% said not enough was being done to improve substance-abuse treatment. 

Around one-third said prescription painkillers and heroin—which caused more than 28,000 overdose deaths in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—are an extremely or very serious problem in their community.

Groups around the U.S. that work on addiction-related issues are arranging forums in primary and battleground states to press candidates to back up their expressions of compassion with specific policy recommendations. Such events have taken place in states including Iowa, New Hampshire, Kentucky and West Virginia, said Carol McDaid, principal at Capitol Decisions, a lobbying firm in Washington, D.C., that works on addiction and mental health issues.

The National Council for Behavioral Health, which represents addiction-treatment providers, is urging candidates to address four points, including expanded access to treatment programs and passage of an opioid-addiction bill that has cleared the Senate and is awaiting action in the House. “We encouraged our members to talk to candidates wherever they might be,” said Becky Vaughn, vice president of addictions for the organization.

The substance-abuse issue is drawing attention in numerous Senate and House races around the country as well, including in states where the GOP seat is seen as vulnerable. In Ohio, which also has been hit hard by the opioid crisis, incumbent Republican Sen. Rob Portman and Democrat Ted Strickland, the former governor, have highlighted the subject. So, too, have Sen. Pat Toomey, the Republican incumbent in Pennsylvania, and his potential opponent, Democrat Joe Sestak.

In New Hampshire, a political nonprofit, One Nation, has sought to bolster Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s re-election bid in part by running an ad highlighting her work on legislation to fight the opioid problem.

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act would expand availability of the opioid-reversal drug naloxone and strengthen databases used to track prescriptions, among other things. It passed with near-unanimous support, including that of Ms. Ayotte and Mr. Portman, who sponsored the measure. Presidential candidates Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) missed the vote.

Rep. Frank Guinta, a New Hampshire Republican and member of the House congressional caucus on prescription drug abuse, said addiction continually comes up in stops around the state. Ahead of the New Hampshire primary, he called on the presidential candidates to propose specific plans to take on the heroin and painkiller problem. He later wrote an editorial for a South Carolina paper urging voters there to continue imploring candidates on the subject.

“This has now become the single most-important issue for me,” Mr. Guinta said. “We need to continue that pressure.”

Substance abuse could also figure prominently in battleground states grappling with serious opioid-addiction problems once the contest moves to the general-election phase. Chief among them is Ohio, where 1,988 people died of opioid-related overdoses in 2014. Not only is the state closely contested in presidential elections, but it also is hosting the GOP convention in July.

In Arizona, another potential battleground, Republican Rep. Paul Gosar said the drug issue comes up frequently in discussions of border security—since so much heroin is trafficked through the state from Mexico—and veteran affairs, because many former military personnel wind up hooked on prescription drugs. “Overdoses are a critical issue in my district,” he said.

Ms. McDaid, of Capitol Decisions, said much of the discussion in the addiction-treatment community at the moment centers on how to capitalize on the attention Mr. Obama has focused on the opioid epidemic. “It’s the shot in the arm that we needed,” she said. “We don’t want to have this as a one-off—the president comes and there’s media coverage for three days, and then everybody goes away.”

* Senator Kelly Ayotte certainly has a compelling campaign issue when she talks about opioid abuse and related deaths, but she doesn't take a similar hard stand against the National Rifle Association (NRA), and the prevention of morbities and moratlities caused by gun violence.

April is the time of year when all of us must write to public policy leaders, to continue to put pressure on them, to pass legislation to prevent, treat and support recovery for substance abuse victims.

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