This is about the life and death of neighbors and loved ones. The Senate must put politics aside and treat opioid addiction as the health crisis it is.
Original Source: usatoday.com
If this were any other public health crisis, decisive action would have been taken long ago.
Three hundred and fifty of our sons, daughters, brothers, daughters, husbands, and wives are lost every day to alcohol and other drugs, including opioids.
The House passed the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act on June 22 — a package of more than 50 individual opioid bills designed to help communities in dire need. They cover everything from stronger guidance for sober living facilities to ensuring treatment for those who overdose to studying new pain management protocols and treatments.
And, yet despite the overwhelming 396-14 vote in the House 10 weeks ago and the death toll rising in our communities, the Senate is still mulling details and trying to reach an agreement.
Senate must get past politics and delays
Why would our elected policymakers ignore and delay on a public health crisis this pressing? Because it impacts people like me. People they think do not vote, people they perceive to have brought this issue on themselves, people we have always let them get away with ignoring.
I am a person in long-term recovery. For me, that means I haven’t had a drink or a drug, and haven’t place a bet, since Feb. 16, 2013. Recovery has given me a new way of life. I’m a taxpayer, a loving, responsible and attentive father, a conscientious friend and partner, and a voter.
Addiction had taken everything from me — a political career I valued, a home and all my finances. But most importantly, addiction stole my dignity. It snatched my sense of self and held it in its grips. It took a lot of pain and heartache, for myself and for those around me, to break the grip this devastating illness had on me and find recovery.
Over 20 million Americans are currently suffering from a substance use disorder — but there are 23 million more in recovery from alcohol and other drug problems. These numbers are daunting. This is not an obscure illness. To put it in perspective, this adds up to one in three households on your block who directly impacted by addiction.
Untreated addiction costs our economy $442 billion and nine out of 10 individuals in need of treatment don’t receive it. And yet despite the colossal failure of the war on drugs, too many in our communities continue to believe that addiction is solely a law enforcement problem that requires solutions within the criminal justice system instead of health care.
As the death toll rises, we can’t continue down this road. In order to change course and take the addiction response closer to health-care driven solutions, Senate leaders must stop playing politics. This is about life and death for our loved ones and our neighbors.
Addiction is not a partisan issue
Addiction is non-partisan. This isn’t an issue that is going to fire up either political base, turn them against the other side and then turn them out to the polls. I spent a decade in politics — I know how election-year dynamics work. Stick to the issues that drive a wedge between us all, don’t get anything done, then run home to your districts and blame the other side. I’ve seen it before and even played a part in it. But this one is too serious.
And politicians better take note: Out of the ashes of the worst drug epidemic in American history by order of magnitude, a constituency of consequence is emerging. Over 2,300 individuals and 70 organizations have added their names to a letter, sent by Facing Addiction with NCADD, demanding action from Senate leaders. All who signed our letter know they and their loved ones aren’t immune. Many have already been affected — and they are not going to sit quietly by and let elected officials play politics with the wellbeing of their communities.
Whether we are Democrats, Republicans, independents or apolitical, we are just as susceptible as anyone else to be affected by addiction. That’s why Senate leaders must act, and act soon. Your life and the lives of your loved ones may depend on it.