Historic Week In The U.S.: Thousands Declare “We’re FED UP!”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – (Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016) – In case you missed it, this week has been a monumental moment in the history of the United States regarding the 23 million Americans in long term recovery. It started Friday when President Obama declared September 18-24 National Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week. In the declaration, POTUS challenged that action from Congress was urgently needed to provide $1.1 billion in new funding for treatment. “During Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week, we pause to remember all those we have lost to opioid use disorder, we stand with the courageous individuals in recovery, and we recognize the importance of raising awareness of this epidemic,” President Obama proclaimed. As part of the observance, members of the President’s Cabinet and Federal agencies focused on the work being done across the government and announced new efforts to address the national prescription opioid and heroin epidemic. Leading up to and during Awareness Week, Federal agencies took a number of actions, including:
- Expanding substance use disorder treatment in the TRICARE system to include coverage of intensive outpatient programs and treatment of opioid use disorders with medication-assisted treatment.
- Establishing enhanced measures in conjunction with the Chinese government to combat the supply of fentanyl and its analogs coming to the United States.
- Increasing the patient limit from 100 to 275 for practitioners prescribing buprenorphine to treat opioid use disorders. (Since July, 1,275 practitioners have applied for and been granted waivers to prescribe at the increased limit – improving access to medication-assisted treatment, or MAT).
- Supporting distance learning and telemedicine programs that expand access to health care, substance use disorder treatment, and educational opportunities in rural communities.
Sunday, thousands gathered at the nation’s capitol to rally Congress for action on the funding of CARA, to make Naloxone available in drugstores without a prescription, and to provide the funds President Obama called for. Last year, FED UP! Rally-goers criticized and put pressure on the Administration to take a more active approach in the epidemic killing over 129 people a day. It would seem he listened. This time, the focus turned towards Congress. “We’re Fed Up!”, “More and more die every day, we need funding right away!”, “Not one more!” and “Hey hey FDA why are you killing our kids today,” echoed through the historic National Mall as parents, children, spouses, friends and those in the addiction treatment industry sent a mournful battle cry to lawmakers that enough was enough. Hundreds of mothers held up pictures of their children lost to overdose and called for an end to a partisan politics approach to behavioral healthcare, and acknowledgment of the urgent, critical need looming over our nation. This need was brought to the forefront in the state of Tennessee after the story of a mother who begged for help on Facebook for her addiction was allegedly rejected from detox for a lack of availability. She died a few days later. The objective was not free of criticism of particular lawmakers who received money from the opioid lobby. A searing new report from the Associated Press claims that the makers of opioid painkillers, the dangerous drugs at the center of the tragic overdose crisis, outspent the US gun lobby on lobbying and campaign contributions by 8:1. The report looked at the period from 2006-2015, when deaths from the drugs began to skyrocket. Tennessee politicians, in the state where the mother died, received more than $1.6 million in campaign contributions over the past decade from pharmaceutical companies and other members of the Pain Care Forum, a coalition that meets monthly to discuss opioid-related issues. The Associated Press and Center for Public Integrity examined the industry’s influence at statehouses around the nation. Opioid drug maker Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, spent more than $880 million, or roughly $98 million per year. The company made $2.4 billion from opioid sales last year alone. Drugmakers and allied advocacy groups employed a yearly average of 1350 lobbyists in legislative centers. In 2015, 227 million opioid prescriptions were given out in the US, enough to hand a bottle of pills to nine out of every 10 American adults. 165,000 Americans have died from an overdose of prescription painkillers since the year 2000. Tuesday after the rally over 100 organizations sent a letter to Senators Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Harry Reid (D-NV) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), urging that they agree to requests that funding for the implementation of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) be including in the Continuing Resolution. When CARA passed in July, it opened the door to discretionary funding, but not mandatory funding – meaning the bill could be tied up in appropriations debates indefinitely. “As the Senate finalizes the Continuing Resolution (CR) to provide a stopgap for the next 10 weeks, we urge them to include funding for the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA),” said Executive Director of Addiction Policy Forum Jessica Nickel. “Even modest seed funding provided in the CR will help stand up programs in multiple agencies so they can be funded and we can bring critical resources to communities once the omnibus is passed.” Facing Addiction announced that beginning this weekend, Public Access television stations across the country will air “Concert to Face Addiction”, which Vertava Health proudly participated in last year. On October 4, 2015, tens of thousands of people came to the Nation’s Capital for a remarkable concert to raise awareness for addiction and recovery. It was the first time major musicians, politicians, athletes, journalists and authors came together in support of the 45 million Americans and their families affected by addiction to alcohol and other drugs. America is awakening from a deep sleep, and we have allowed corruption in politics to go on far too long. Addiction is a disease that affects everyone. It is not a Democratic, Republican, or Libertarian disease. It is a community disease. It takes all of us to fight it. Contact your local Congressmen and let them know they will not take money from major pharmaceutical companies during this epidemic and not be held accountable. Your state legislature’s Ethics and Oversight Committees can legally request a printout of campaign contributions from any business or group for any member of Congress. It’s time to remind them that they work for us, not Big Pharma.