Increased State Funding to Battle Addiction Goal of Proposed Law
The epidemic of addiction and overdose deaths in the U.S. is bringing legislators together from across the aisle. No matter the political leaning, all can agree that drug abuse and addiction are serious issues and that something needs to be done. Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Republican Rob Portman of Ohio have teamed up to introduce a bill that would shed light on the issue of addiction and provide the resources to fight it.
The bill is called the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2014, and it is cosponsored by Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar, Vermont Democrat Patrick Joseph Leahy and New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte. All agree that, as legislators, they have a responsibility to try to curb the epidemic of drug addiction and overdose fatalities largely caused by opioid prescriptions and heroin. The focus of the bill is on treatment and prevention, and the supporting senators hope that it will not only provide resources but also change attitudes about addiction. They want addicts to be viewed as patients to be treated, not criminals to be arrested and incarcerated. The bill is comprehensive and includes several strategies:
- The launching of a nationwide program of treatment and intervention for heroin and opioid addictions. The program would focus on evidence-based treatment strategies.
- Prevention and educational resources would be expanded under the bill. These would be aimed primarily at vulnerable populations including teens, senior citizens and parents and caregivers.
- Resources would also be allocated to the treatment of incarcerated addicts. The bill would allow for better collaboration between everyone involved in treatment and the criminal justice system, and treatment measures would be evidence-based.
- To prevent deaths caused by heroin and opioid overdoses, the bill would get more naloxone into the hands of police and first responders. Naloxone is an overdose antidote that can save lives when administered quickly.
- To minimize and prevent prescription opioid abuse, which often leads to heroin addiction, the bill would shore up programs that monitor and track medications. The bill would also include more disposal sites for prescription drugs that are no longer needed or wanted.
According to Sen. Whitehouse, more than 100 people have died so far this year in Rhode Island from overdoses. The number is staggering and tells a story that is repeated in states throughout the union. Whitehouse and the other supporting legislators hope that the bill they have introduced represents a set of steps that will make a real difference in the battle against addiction and overdose. They hope that it will help local governments, law enforcement agencies, educators, healthcare professionals and other community activists to be able to work together to prevent addiction and to treat addicts.
The timing of the bill coincides with the 25th anniversary of National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month. Recognition of addiction as a disease is important. It helps to reduce stigma and ensures that more people will get help. Recovery Month and the new bill in the Senate also bring awareness to the fact that addiction is treatable. Ending drug addiction is not a matter of applying willpower, but rather undergoing successful treatment of a chronic disease. If the act passes and becomes law, it would represent a major step forward in the battle against drugs and addiction. It would help millions of people get treatment, be rescued from overdose and avoid addiction. The bill represents hope and a shift in attitude that would benefit everyone.
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