This past Tuesday, during Trump’s State of the Union address, we witnessed more of the empty promises and inaction that has riddled the addiction community since he took office. Before we dive into the lack of pragmatic solutions and the promissory notions of intervention via the US government, it would be advantageous to discuss the options, strategies, and conversations that would be effective in expanding our dialogue around this issue. First and foremost, we ought to begin by discussing the utter lack of polarity surrounding the issue of addiction, and more specifically, the opioid crisis. Regardless of where we stand politically on issues of gay rights, abortion, immigration, and economics, anyone who has experienced or been affected by addiction understands that the only sane political stance on the addiction epidemic is to try and take the necessary steps to combat it. Being at the starting point of a conversation where we can circumvent the tension and discord that nearly always accompanies the polarization of issues, the people who support them, and what “team” they affiliate themselves with is no small feat. We are faced with an insidious and seductive evil in the form of addiction. That being said, because all reasonable people believe that we need to mitigate the onslaught of drugs coming into this country while combatting the suffering of individuals who are already suffering the pangs of this disease, we can begin our hunt for solutions much further up the starting line than we might should we be discussing a different issue here.
Drug overdose deaths in the United States have exceeded, in the past several years, the number of deaths that were reached by the spreading of AIDS/HIV in the 80’s and 90’s, people killed by gun violence, and finally, exceeded car crash deaths. The Center for Disease Control has also stated that the drug and opiate epidemic has been a contributing factor to the drop off in average life expectancy throughout the nation in the past few years as well. After declaring an emergency over the current state of the drug epidemic, Trump, for all intents and purposes, essentially proposed handing out squirt guns in order to put out a blazing wildfire.
The loudest action taken seems to be the allocation of 3 billion dollars towards addiction treatment which could deliver recovery services, detoxification, and continuing care options for sufferers. Out of context one might think, “Wow, 3 billion? Well sure that will help!” According to policy experts, the number we ought to be aiming for if we want to see marked changes is in the tens of billions, however those funds are being allocated elsewhere. It is also important to acknowledge the dismantling of Obamacare which, regardless of your political stance towards its effectiveness and efficiency, does deliver recovery services to marginalized and dispossessed populations who have little or no access to these programs. According to recent studies conducted at NYU and Harvard School of Medicine, the disintegration of the Affordable Health Care Act would cause approximately 220,000 individuals to lose access to healthcare that would allow for individuals suffering from Substance Use Disorder (SUD) to get treatment. Finally, only about 10% of people living in the US who suffer from SUD will be able to receive specialty treatment due to the lack of access to an adequate health care plan.
The current landscape is a dreary one from the perspective of federal intervention because of the severity of the epidemic. While we can take agency over what is conceivably in our control from a macro standpoint, meaning voting, calling and writing our statewide representatives, and even public protest, in the interim, we ought to think about what solutions are realistic, feasible, pragmatic, and most importantly, at our disposal. The current 28-day model is effective within the limitations of delivering treatment services in the first month. It would advantageous, however, for sufferers of addiction as well as their families to also think about extended care during the first year of sobriety. It is crucial that we set those up who suffer from addiction on a course for success and it is even more important that we do this as early on in their acknowledgment and acceptance of the fact they are struggling with a life-threatening disease. There is a familiar scenario whereby an individual comes to get treatment, is successful while in the facility, and then discharges with no prospect of ongoing support.
Hired Power provides ongoing services, support, and accountability for those recently out of treatment as well as those who may not have access to professional help. To use a metaphor, one wouldn’t spend a week explaining and educating someone interested in learning to ride a bike how the mechanics of the bike work, the laws of physics, and how to turn the handlebars in order to change directions, without then taking this information into practice and actually ride the bicycle.
That would be non-sensical and silly, showing how we need to be walking with these individuals as they actually ride their bikes. Hired Power is staffed with PRA’s (Personal Recovery Assistants) as well as various other staff members with expertise in addiction recovery.