Not everyone has time to read through a 138 page document produced by The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, but fortunately/unfortunately, I do. The Commission gave 56 recommendations for what to do to help with the crisis, but the President just can’t seem to get a grip on any of them. Instead of listening to his own Commission, he has decided to focus on enforcing opioid laws instead of providing opioid treatment. Here’s a rundown of what the commission had to say.
Roster of Commissioners
Governor Chris Christie, Chairman
Governor Charlie Baker
Governor Roy Cooper
Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy
Professor Bertha Madras, Ph.D.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi
“Our people are dying. More than 175 lives lost every day. If a terrorist organization was killing 175 Americans a day on American soil, what would we do to stop them? We would do anything and everything. We must do the same to stop the dying caused from within.”
“Without comprehensive action, including your national public health emergency, the death count will continue to rise.”
“It is time we all say what we know is true: addiction is a disease. However, we do not treat addiction in this country like we treat other diseases. Neither government nor the private sector has committed the support necessary for research, prevention, and treatment like we do for other diseases.”
“The recommendations herein, and the interim recommendations submitted by the Commission in July, are designed to address this national priority. These recommendations will help doctors, addiction treatment providers, parents, schools, patients, faith-based leaders, law enforcement, insurers, the medical industry, and researchers fight opioid abuse and misuse by reducing federal barriers and increasing support to effective programs and innovation.”
“We recommended that all law enforcement officers across the country be equipped with life saving naloxone.”
“We recommended full enforcement of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act to ensure that health plans cannot provide less favorable benefits for mental health and substance use diagnoses than physical health ailments.”
“Today, only 10.6% of youth and adults who need treatment for a substance use disorder receive that treatment. This is unacceptable. Too many people who could be helped are falling through the cracks and losing their lives as a result.”
“One of the most important recommendations…is getting federal funding support more quickly and effectively to state governments, who are on the front lines of fighting this addiction battle every day. Bureaucracy, departmental silos, and red tape must not be accepted as the norm when dealing with funding to combat this epidemic. Saving time and resources, in this instance, will literally save lives.”
“Accordingly, we are urging Congress and the Administration to block grant federal funding for opioid-related and SUD-related activities to the states. . This was a request to the Commission by nearly every Governor, regardless of party, across the country.
“The Commission also identifies the need to focus on, deploy, and assess evidence-based programs that can be funded through these proposed block grants.”
“From its review of the federal budget aimed at addressing the opioid epidemic, the Commission identified a disturbing trend in federal health care reimbursement policies that incentivizes the wide-spread prescribing of opioids and limits access to other non-addictive treatments for pain, as well as addiction treatment and medication-assisted treatment.”
“The Department of Labor must be given the real authority to regulate the health insurance industry. The health insurers are not following the federal law requiring parity in the reimbursement for mental health and addiction. They must be held responsible.”
“We are recommending that a drug court be established in every one of the 93 federal district courts in America. It is working in our states and can work in our federal system to help treat those who need it and lower the federal prison population. For many people, being arrested and sent to a drug court is what saved their lives, allowed them to get treatment, and gave them a second chance.”
“Drug Courts are known to be significantly more effective than incarceration, but 44% of U.S. Counties do not have an adult drug court.”
“The Commission recommends enhanced penalties for trafficking of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues and calls for additional technologies and drug detections to expand efforts to intercept fentanyl before entering the country.”
“The time to wait is over. The time for talk is passed. 175 deaths a day can no longer be tolerated. We know that you will not stand by; we believe you will force action.”
What This Administration Has Already Done:
- Announced the launch of a new policy to overcome a rule that prevents states from providing more access to care at treatment facilities with more than 16 beds.
- Directed all federally employed prescribers to receive special training to fight this epidemic.
- The DOJ has continued its efforts to stop the flow of illicit synthetic drugs into this country through the U.S. Postal Service
- NIH DIrector Dr. Francis COllins has been partnering with pharmaceutical companies to develop non-addictive painkillers and new treatments for addiction and overdose. THe Commission worked with Dr. Collins to convene a meeting with industry leadership to discuss innovative ways to combat the opioid crisis.