Advocates for Opioid Recovery (AOR) welcomes the release of the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis’ Final Report. We are hopeful for swift action by Congress, the President, and his Cabinet to address this public health emergency. We agree with the Commission that a multi-faceted approach to addressing the opioid epidemic is necessary, and we applaud the efforts taken to consult experts in the field of addiction, patients, medical professionals, and policymakers.
Although there is no single strategy to address the crisis, with 175 people dying every day from drug overdose, breaking down barriers to evidence-based treatment – including recovery medication – should be the highest priority, and will make long-term recovery a reality for those affected by opioid use disorder. We were pleased to see the Commission incorporate many of AOR’s policy recommendations that support our four strategic pillars: eliminating the bias against addiction, expanding treatment capacity, enforcing parity laws, and expanding evidence-based treatment within the criminal justice system.
As the Commission recommended, we also urge the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, the Indian Health Service, Tricare, and the Veterans Administration to remove reimbursement and policy barriers to recovery treatment, including those – such as patient caps – that limit access to any forms of FDA-approved medication assisted treatment. We further urge the Department of Labor to act on its mandate to enforce the parity laws, and Congress to eliminate any ambiguity around the department’s jurisdiction. We hope access to medication assisted treatment is expedited for justice-involved individuals through expansion of drug court programs, and that criminal justice agencies use medication assisted treatment with pre-trial detainees and continue treatment upon release.
However, none of these recommendations can be implemented without funding. We need an urgent realignment of government resources and additional funding from Congress to address this emergency.
We are especially proud of the expertise and tireless work our advisor, Patrick J. Kennedy. As a commissioner, he shaped the report’s recommendations and ensured there was a focus on the human toll of this epidemic. As a long-time advocate for mental health and addiction treatment and coverage, we thank him for continuing to speak up with courage and strength regarding his own personal experiences, and the need to break down barriers to addiction treatment.
We are encouraged by the findings in this report, and hopeful that the focus will remain on the expansion and implementation of evidence-based treatments.
We have highlighted the most relevant recommendations that advance our four strategic pillars (Recommendations 31-51 on pages 8-10).