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To Increase Addiction Treatment, Investment Helps—But Structural Change Is Needed, Too

By
Courtney Gallo Hunter, VP, State Policy
capitol hill

During the COVID-19 crisis, those struggling with addiction, those in recovery, and their families have been sounding the alarm. A recent report by Well Being Trust outlines the forthcoming deaths of despair that this global pandemic may bring. We must do more to prevent deaths from drug overdose, alcohol, and suicide.

The latest stimulus package (the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions, or HEROES Act) has been introduced by House Democrats and includes $3 trillion In funding for frontline workers, help for small businesses, and critical support to communities and state governments. In addition, people struggling with substance use disorders (SUDs) and mental health issues have been recognized and supported through this proposed programming:

  • A technical assistance center at SAMHSA to provide support for public and non-profit entities and health care professionals, aiming to establish or expand access to mental health and SUD care associated with the COVID-19 pandemic
  • $1.5 billion for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant
  • $1 billion for the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant
  • $100 million for services to people experiencing homelessness
  • $100 million for Project AWARE to identify at-risk students and connect them with mental health services
  • $10 million for the National Child Traumatic Stress Network
  • $265 million for emergency response grants to address immediate behavioral health needs as a result of COVID-19
  • $25 million for the Suicide Lifeline and Disaster Distress Helpline
  • Not less $150 million for tribes, tribal organizations, urban Indian health organizations, or health service providers to tribes across a variety of programs

This funding is very welcome and will make a difference. But it’s not enough. What the legislation doesn't do is change the regulations that are needed to increase access to care.

If we don't require physicians to be trained on addiction within medical schools, there will be a continued shortage of doctors specializing in behavioral health. We already have a tremendous capacity issue of trained providers, and we need to Incentivize physicians to treat addiction.

What’s more, if our country continues to require physicians to obtain a special waiver to prescribe medications for addiction treatment, money will not eliminate this barrier to accessing critical care. Like any other disease, medications are effective in treatment. They save lives, and should be offered as part of a spectrum of care.

We’ve got to keep pushing to create the structural change needed to truly reverse the addiction crisis. In order to change these regulations and treat addiction like any other disease, we need your help to include the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment (MAT) Act and the Medication Access and Training Expansion Act Included in the HEROES Act. Write to Congress today!

 

Courtney Hunter is Shatterproof's Vice President of State Policy.