It’s clear the drug overdose crisis is out of control in America. Our programs to prevent drug overdoses have not been successful. In the past year 105,000 Americans have died from drug overdoses. We have seen a 60% rise in deaths by fentanyl even while working to prevent it with a great deal of funding and new programs.
The SUPPORT Act
In 2018 there was a bipartisan bill passed by Congress to put $20 billion into treatment, prevention and recovery from fentanyl. There have been discussions as to how effective this funding has been in preventing the crisis. This legislation was entitled the SUPPORT Act. This act has lapsed as of September 30th and there has been little urgency to renew the funding.
One reason is no one is confident this funding has created options state-by-state for preventing the deaths due to overdoses. Another reason is we are uncertain about what specifically to fund. A third reason is no congressional business is being done because we do not have a Speaker of the House. All legislation of this nature has been ceased.
It’s not financially prudent to fund programs that aren’t effective. However, we can’t remove all funding, particularly for treatment and recovery, or the crisis will grow exponentially. This illicit drug crisis has become greater in its scope and impact than anyone could ever have predicted and it appears we continue to struggle with the harshness of its effect on our children and adults in America.
Designing Better Systems of Care
We obviously have a long way to go to find answers to this very complex and life-dominating problem for so many families. Added to the current mental health struggles that have also grown immeasurably, we have to be very intentional and research-based in how we go about designing better systems of care to turn these crises around.
What we don’t want to see is the supports that are now in place become non-existent. If this happens, people who are struggling with addiction will have less options available. There has been lobbying going on since January in Washington.
A bipartisan group of representatives focused on mental health and substance use has proposed more than 70 bills and yet there continues to be little or no urgency to create new and innovative bills and funding focused on this crisis.
Uniting for a Solution
There are no easy answers or degree of funding that we know will change the trajectory of this crisis. We do need funding and innovation that is “on the ground” and available to those who struggle with addiction.
If we provide little or no support the crisis will continue to grow. If we cannot align with each other on what approaches we will fund due to political divisions, hundreds of thousands more will die from the abuse of illicit drugs.
We all need to speak loudly to our elected officials to resolve their differences and unite to use our resources better to prevent the devastating impact of illicit drug overdoses.