Op-Ed: A Call to Action to Help End this Country’s Lethal Addiction Crisis

Robert J. Budsock | December 4, 2017 | Opinion
The president’s commission has made promising and sound recommendations. Now we must put action behind the words

Robert J. Budsock
On Wednesday, November 1, President Donald Trump’s Commission on Combatting Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis released its final recommendations to combat the deadly addiction crisis that grips our country. Among the 56 recommendations were block grants of federal funding for opioid-related and substance-use-disorder-related activities to the states, establishing a drug court in every federal district court, implementing improved training requirements for doctors before they can prescribe opioid painkillers, and a national ad campaign to prevent addiction and to fight the stigma surrounding substance-use disorder.

I’d like to take this opportunity to praise the work of Gov. Chris Christie and the commission. The report came as a result of consulting with a wide range of stakeholders, including state governors, community providers, insurance and pharmaceutical companies, and people living in recovery, along with numerous arms of the U.S. government. I applaud the conclusions made by the commission, as well as their comprehensive assessment of the problem. The report makes promising and sound recommendations that reaffirm what many of us in the substance-abuse-disorder treatment community have been fighting for.

The task at hand

The work of the commission is to be applauded, but now is the time to focus on the task at hand. The key now is action. Benign neglect of the opioid problem in America has allowed it to ravage countless communities in our country for far too long. It’s been weeks now since the commission’s report was published, and the various branches of government and Senate must make it their responsibility to act based on the recommendations. The commission’s report must be translated into real initiatives to provide the critical aid that our country needs. Continuing the fight against opioid addiction in the country requires strong leadership and swift and widespread action.

The commission has given us the roadmap on how to reverse the rapidly rising rate of addiction in the country. But it is up to Congress and policymakers to make these recommendations a reality and a priority, and to work toward delegating funding to implement them. This means passing critical bills that have been drafted to combat the opioid crisis and enhance support for treatment and recovery. It is only through the combined and comprehensive efforts of federal, state, and local governments, medical professionals, insurers, and treatment providers that we will overcome the opioid crisis.

On November 8, 16 of the biggest health Insurance companies throughout the country, including Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, announced the formation of a national coalition to address substance-abuse disorder and the opioid crisis in the United States. The coalition outlined eight “National Principles of Care” to improve the access to and quality of substance-use disorder treatment. The implementation of these principles, which include plans for concurrent, coordinated care for physical and mental illness; engagement in continuing long-term outpatient care with monitoring and adjustments to treatment; and access to nonmedical recovery support services, are exactly the kind of initiatives that we need to confront the opioid crisis head on. The commitment of this coalition will ensure that there is consistency and momentum across healthcare and treatment providers, and I applaud their initiative.

The president’s commission reported that more than 175 Americans die every day as a result of drug overdoses. Without swift action and meaningful change, many, many more Americans will die from this scourge.

The president declared the opioid problem in America a public health crisis and it must be treated as such. To commit to changing the conversation surrounding the stigma associated with addiction, promoting realistic and proactive education to prevent Americans from trying opioids and offering realistic and comprehensive treatment for those suffering, the government and treatment providers together can help to make the commission’s recommendations a reality.