Our next president must address addiction — Hillary Clinton has a plan to do just that.
At one of Hillary Clinton’s very first campaign stops in New Hampshire, she spoke to a retired doctor. He told her his biggest worry for the state wasn’t the economy or terrorism — it was the growing epidemic of drug addiction.
In place after place across this country, Hillary has heard similar fears and similar stories — about how addiction to drugs and alcohol, and particularly to opioids, is creeping into their families, their schools, and their communities. She’s heard stories from parents about overdoses that tragically ended the lives of their children. She’s met people who are struggling with addiction themselves. And she’s also met recovery community leaders, faith leaders, and doctors, who are working every day to confront this epidemic and are saving lives.
Addiction is a disease; it is not a moral failing. And as Hillary often notes, it’s a quiet epidemic. She believes that it is our obligation, especially during times like Opioid Awareness Week, to recognize the individuals who are struggling with addiction or trying to stay in recovery — and talk about what we can do as a country to support them, their families and friends.
We must start by owning up to the facts. There are nearly twenty-three million Americans facing addiction, about 20 million of whom never get treatment.
There are fifty-two million Americans over age 12 who have misused prescription drugs at some point, including one in four teenagers.
And there are 44,000 Americans who died from drug overdoses in 2013 — a greater number than died in car crashes that same year.
It’s time we recognize and tackle the crisis of addiction head-on.
That’s what Hillary’s comprehensive plan to combat our nation’s epidemic of addiction, which she released last summer, sought to achieve. After hearing stories from people across the country and talking to experts in social work, medicine, and law enforcement, Hillary put out an agenda to make sure these voices are heard. She’s the only candidate this election who’s actually talking about a solution.
The centerpiece of her plan is a $7.5 billion fund to support new federal-state partnerships to both prevent and treat addiction. This includes helping school districts implement age-specific drug education programs — the kinds of programs that seek to thwart risky behavior through community-wide peer and mentorship development, and set positive role models for kids. States should also identify and lift up promising after-school activities, community service programs, or parental leadership initiatives, — that are aimed at preventing substance abuse and that have made a difference.
But Hillary knows that prevention alone will not solve this crisis: We also need to invest in treatment and recovery.
This means working with every state to identify barriers to treatment, like the gap between inpatient and outpatient services, insufficient funding, or a lack of qualified providers — and doing whatever it takes to close those gaps. It means channeling support to recovery community organizations and peer counselors. And it means making sure that insurance companies are complying with their parity obligations and treating substance use disorders on par with other chronic health conditions.
Hillary will also work with states to establish better first response, ensure that prescribers are using prescription drug monitoring programs before they write scripts for more painkillers, and reform the criminal justice system to emphasize treatment over incarceration.
At the national level, Hillary’s plan will take immediate action to scale up resources for combatting addiction, facilitate access to medication assisted treatment, limit the unnecessary prescriptions of opioids in Medicare and at the Veterans Administration, and much more.
Hillary also recognizes that for some people, mental health problems are linked to addiction. That’s a point Hillary has heard on the trail, from doctors, parents and teachers. That’s why she has also unveiled a serious initiative on mental health, focusing on destigmatizing these these illnesses and integrating mental health treatment into our general health care system, investing in early diagnosis, improving training for law enforcement officials, and more.
These issues are complicated — and they run deep in communities. But Hillary believes that there’s a lot we can do to address mental health and addiction, as well as the dangerous — and all-too-common — combination of the two.
In every town and city she’s visited this campaign, Hillary has seen stories of families upended by drug addiction. But she’s also heard about second chances: The young mother who overcame her addiction to alcohol and heroin because she didn’t want her son to see her with a drink or a drug. The man who spent 11 years in prison — and is now working in a prison ministry to help others.
Regardless of how long it’s been, recovery is a lifelong process — and we need to support the people in our community who are struggling every step of the way. As a woman in New Hampshire said, “We’re not bad people trying to get good; we’re sick people that deserve to get well.”