Last week Congress passed a landmark bill authorizing a significant increase in the level of support to addicts and addiction treatment providers throughout the country. However, like all political events there’s more to this story than meets the eye. Whether you’re the loved one of a person with substance use disorder, a person with substance use disorderion treatment provider, or an emergency medical professional, here are three things you should know about Congress’ most recent bill aimed at tackling the opioid epidemic ripping across our nation and ending countless lives.
- Treatment is at the forefront. The bill passed by Congress highlights a broad spectrum of treatment tools and modalities, from providing more life-saving medicines like Naloxone to increasing the capacity of short- and long-term treatment facilities so that more people can get help when they need it. The bill’s primary focus on the availability of life-saving medical support for people struggling with an opioid addiction means that Congress has heard their constituents’ demand for an end to the drug’s national epidemic, loud and clear.
- This level of partisanship is historic. It should come as no shock to anyone that legislation so well received by both political parties is atypical for congressional bills. As a country we’ve gotten so used to Congress in a deadlock, unable to pass anything, that collectively we’ve almost come to expect little to no progress on any meaningful issue. With a final Senate vote of 92-2 in favor of passing this bill, we can celebrate Congress’ decision to act on addiction treatment as the serious public health issue that it is.
- The bill isn’t funded – yet. The biggest obstacle the newly passed bill will face comes after Congress’ summer recess, in September, when representatives will begin work on approving a budget for the bill to carry out the activities it details. Many critics of the bill go so far as to say that without having approved funding for this bill in Congress, it may very well fail to be fully funded, becoming just a skeleton of its original intention and a far cry from the escalated level of support this country needs around opioid addiction. Congress has yet to pass any spending bills in their current session; advocates of this bill should carefully monitor this bill’s progress and call their representatives to ensure this important legislation is funded.
Congress may be ready for a vacation over their upcoming seven-week recess, but their work is far from done. Having beaten the odds once to secure bipartisan support, our representatives must go back to work to ensure that the important support provided in this bill is actually funded. We can’t let this bill be written off as lip service; if we can see through our differences to one goal we all have in common – saving lives – we can change the face of addiction treatment in this country and avoid untold pain and suffering in our own lives and communities.