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How Could New Trump Budget Proposal Impact the Opioid Epidemic?

The Potential Pros and Cons of Trump Budget on Opioid Epidemic

Author: Justin Mckibben

It is no secret that the devastating opioid epidemic in America is still tearing a path of despair across the country. In 2015 this ongoing public health crisis ravaged communities, causing over 52,000 drug overdose deaths and more than 33,000 opioid overdose deaths. The opioid problem was a major campaign issue during the election, and now is one of the most pressing problems we face here in the states. Yet, upon examining the recent budget proposal released by President Trump and his administration, it seems the means to try and bring the epidemic to an end are lacking to say the least.

Given the current state of affairs, it is certain that tens of thousands of people will likely die of drug overdoses under President Donald Trump’s term. Taking that into account many hoped that drug treatment would be a serious priority. However, with the first big policy document from President Trump being the 2018 budget proposal, experts believe Trump is proving that the opioid crisis is not a priority. All this after claims that Trump would “spend the money” in order to “end the opioid epidemic in America.”

If anything, some experts are saying the proposal President Trump has introduced may actually make the opioid epidemic worse. So here we will take a look at some of the pros and cons of the 2018 proposed budget.

The Pros VS the Cons

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), this new budget plan makes little effort, and in the end it may ultimately prove obsolete.

  1. Nearly 2% increase in drug treatment spending

Pro- the ONDCP says this will amount to an estimated $200 million added to the already $10.6 billion the government already spent on treatment.

Con- the catch is this money includes the $500 million added by the 21st Century Cures Act from the Obama administration.

That essentially means without that Obama era legislation the Trump budget would have actually cut drug treatment spending. Ultimately, the cut will likely happen the year after the 2018 budget because the Cures Act money is only for 2017 and 2018.

  1. Cuts or No Cuts?

Pros- Still, according to the ONDCP figures of the 2018 budget, technically there are no proposed cuts to overall drug treatment spending this year.

Cons- However, the proposal does suggest other cuts to public health and anti-drug programs. The ONDCP states that these other cuts in funding can completely undermine any progress.

For example, the 2018 budget proposal from President Trump does seriously cut drug prevention programs across all federal agencies by approximately 11%.

Other Big Budget Debates

  • Medicaid

Probably one of the big arguments is the potential for problems with healthcare and cuts to Medicaid, especially since President Trump repeatedly ran on the promise that he would not be cutting Medicaid.

However, reports indicate Trump also proposes a 47% cut to Medicaid over the next 10 years! People have been up in arms about the suggestion that this could potentially strip the one affordable source of health insurance from millions of Americans. Part of which is actually used for drug addiction treatments.

A 2014 study showed that Medicaid paid for ¼ of projected public and private spending for drug treatment in 2014. That equates to around 7.9 billion dollars utilized for treating drug addiction.

  • SAMHSA

The new 2018 budget proposal also requests nearly $400 million worth of cuts to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

  • Mental Health Block Grants

The Trump budget requests hundreds of millions of dollars to be taken away from mental health block grants.

Beyond that, the budget calls for billions of dollars to be cut from agencies and programs that work to help address the opioid epidemic and drug addiction. Agencies with proposed cuts include:

  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

While these are not drug treatment providers, they are actively involved in creating opportunities and providing research in the mental health and drug treatment communities.

Too Little Too Late

Advocates for drug treatment don’t only put this on Trump. For years the federal government has taken too long to take action to fight the epidemic. Even with the Obama administration it took until 2016 to pass any major legislation. Finally the 21st Century Cures Act added $1 billion to drug treatment for 2 years, but advocates insist that the problem requires much more funding.

This makes sense, considering the overdose outbreak now kills more people than:

  • Cars
  • Guns
  • Even HIV/AIDS at the peak of its outbreak

Examining the budget shows that the only significant action in the budget that would affect the epidemic is cuts in funding to important elements in the fight against the epidemic. Sadly, as far as anyone has stated, there is nothing in the budget to balance out the cuts either.

What We Know

The fundamental issue is that America needs to put a lot more resources into drug addiction prevention and drug addiction treatment. The Obama administration took some steps in 2015 and 2016 to add hundreds of millions and then another billion to fund the efforts, but experts still say that was also too little too late.

The fear now is that more needs to be done to empower the agencies that are on the front lines of the fight. More needs to be put into a compassionate response. Instead, Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions is advocating for a “tough on crime” attitude and endorsing the War on Drugs that has already failed the nation time and time again.

So while there is potential, and many believe Trump has an amazing opportunity to do much more than his predecessor did to create resources for battling the opioid epidemic head-on, many see these recent steps as an indication that things might get worse before they get better.

Drug abuse and addiction is a devastating and deadly disease, and providing effective and compassionate treatment makes a lifelong difference. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, think about who you want to be working with to find a real solution. Please call toll-free now.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

How Trumpcare Could Cripple Addiction and Mental Health Treatment

How Trumpcare Could Cripple Addiction and Mental Health Treatment

Author: Justin Mckibben

The new Trumpcare plan, formally known as the American Health Care Act or AHCA was announced this Monday March 6th. This Trumpcare bill is the Republican Party’s long awaited plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Since day one of the announcement we have seen quite a few varying opinions as to what this means for the people who were previously covered, and what it means for how healthcare altogether might change. Needless to say, not that much of the talk has been optimistic. As details emerge about Trumpcare some have become increasingly worried about the impact it will have on access to treatment for substance use disorder, especially for low-income Americans.

So what some are officials and experts saying about Trumpcare, and what it might mean for Americans struggling with addiction?

Early Predictions on Trumpcare

According to some early reports, 6-10 million Americans will lose health insurance. Not only that, millions of people in desperate need of help could be cut off from access to addiction treatment as a result of the bill.

In fact, according to one analysis, approximately 2.8 million people living with substance use disorder will lose some or all of their health insurance coverage if Obamacare is repealed. This conclusion comes from:

  • Harvard health economist Richard Frank
  • Sherry Glied, Dean of the Wagner School of Public Service at NYU

The publication The Hill reported in January that Frank and Glied predict that the federal government’s 21st Century Cures Act creates a recent investment of $1 billion to tackle opioid abuse. However, they state this provision would be- squandered if the new Congress rolls back recent gains in the quality and level of substance use and mental health insurance coverage generated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010.”

Surely this is all “fake news” and “alternative facts” right?

Not so much. According to reports from the Washington Post Thursday, House Republicans admitted, after questioning by Massachusetts Democratic Representative Joe Kennedy III, that their the Trumpcare plan to repeal-and-replace would- “remove a requirement to offer substance abuse and mental-health coverage that’s now used by at least 1.3 million Americans.”

How does this happen? By attacking the expansion of Medicaid and the ‘essential benefits’ states are required to provide for.

Trumpcare Impact on Medicaid

Trumpcare’s plan to roll back Medicaid and health insurance tax credits are pretty distressing aspect of this reform. For all the Americans who rely on government assistance for addiction treatment this is a pretty huge deal.

Addiction treatment in the past is notably impacted by Medicaid. According to Truven Health Analytics, Medicaid was the second largest payer for addiction treatment, after state and local programs, in 2014.

Starting in 2020, Trumpcare is set to:

  • Freeze Medicaid enrollment
  • No longer require Medicaid to cover essential health benefits like addiction treatment

What is the point? To make it so the federal government pays less for Medicaid over time by shrinking coverage.

So if this is all the case, it is a terrifying reality. In a time when more Americans than ever desperately need addiction treatment, in the midst of an opioid epidemic that is tearing families and communities apart, the government’s Trumpcare plan stands to save money by stripping addiction resources from those relying on Medicaid?

Representative Kelly and Peter Welch, Democratic Representative from Vermont, attempted to amend the bill to restore the federal mandate for those ‘essential benefits’ but were voted down. Kenny is popularly quoted in the news recently for his statement,

“There is no mercy in a country that turns their back on those most in need of protection: the elderly, the poor, the sick, and the suffering. There is no mercy in a cold shoulder to the mentally ill… This is not an act of mercy — it is an act of malice.”

While Trump’s comments say he wants to give states “flexibility” with Medicaid to make sure no one is left out, many believe this is just adding the idea of paying more for less.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer vows to lead efforts to defeat Trumpcare, stating he believes it will “Make America Sick Again” and believes that it will create more drug addicts. In a report from The Hill Schumer attacks the bill saying,

“To make matters worse, this sham of a replacement would rip treatment away from hundreds of thousands of Americans dealing with opioid addiction, breaking the President’s word that he would expand treatment, not cut it.”

This is continuously troubling. When it comes to the fight against addiction, President Trump’s administration seems to be more focused on borders and “law and order” than providing resources. Trump did promise to work on creating more coverage options, but all the action taking place almost points the opposite direction.

Trumpcare Impact on Treatment Providers

This chain reaction wouldn’t just hurt those who need insurance by denying them coverage. Experts say Trumpcare also has the capacity to do damage to the treatment providers themselves.

Keith Humphreys, a drug policy expert at Stanford University, points out this issue directly. Humphreys notes that treatment providers, which tend to be small businesses in many parts of the country, may find it difficult to stay in business if clients lose coverage for addiction treatment. If less people are able to get coverage, less people will be able to get treatment. At the same time even bigger treatment providers could have trouble because it still has the capacity to reduce reimbursement rates for treatment services.

Thus, Trumpcare could affect both the supply and quality of treatment. In one interview Humphreys states,

“Most providers are small, mono-business entities that can’t absorb costs elsewhere in their care systems,”

“While hospitals will not go broke if poor people get less oncology care coverage, many [substance use disorder] treatment agencies will.”

But it isn’t just Democrats or University Professors or addiction experts speaking out. The AARP, the American Hospital Association, and the American Medical Association voice opinions against the overhaul of the ACA and the potential harm Trumpcare could do.

Even Republicans are speaking out against the danger that Trumpcare poses to addiction. Ohio Governor John Kasich is vocal with his own opposition to the bill saying,

“[Trumpcare] unnecessarily puts at risk our ability to treat the drug-addicted mentally ill and working poor who now have access to a stable source of care.”

Not to say that healthcare was ever perfect. It is noted by many doctors in the addiction field, as well as politicians and other experts, that there is already a treatment deficit. Approximately 10% of America’s population has what could be considered a substance use disorder, and only 13% of those people ever get treatment.

However, the miles of red tape Trumpcare might wrap around them could cut that number drastically. So even if these are unintended consequences, they are very real consequences just the same.

Obamacare was far, far from perfect. This is absolutely true. But is Trumpcare the best answer we can come up with?

As it now stands, Trumpcare may take so much away from those struggling with addiction and mental health that some experts are calling it dangerous. Having safe, effective and comprehensive treatment resources for these issues is extremely important to the preservation of life and the future of America. This is a matter of life and death. It is not the time for an ‘anything but Obamacare’ mentality… if the government expects a better plan, they need to make it happen. How about we put a hold on spending billions on border walls and expanding the nuclear program, and instead focus on healing Americans who need it most.

 If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, think about who you want to be working with to find a real solution. Please call toll-free now.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Wisconsin Governor Asking Trump to Help Drug Testing for Food Stamps

Wisconsin Governor Asking Trump to Help Drug Testing for Food Stamps

Author: Justin Mckibben

Drug testing for food stamps and other welfare benefits is a debate people seem to never get tired of having. Over the past few years there have been many state trying to use this kind of restriction in order to save money on benefits, but ironically these programs seem to have a history of being ineffective and actually costing the states money. Money which taxpayers provide. Even though the effort seems like a lost cause, many are not yet convinced.

Scott Walker, the Governor of Wisconsin, apparently has no intention of giving up his mission to drug test welfare and food stamp recipients. Despite the continuous failures of such initiatives, the governor is persistent. Now, Walker has gone so far as to write a letter to President-elect Donald Trump, asking him to give his state permission to begin drug-testing residents who collect food stamps.

Dear Mr. Trump

In the letter Governor Walker wrote Trump on Tuesday, December 20, Walker echoed his desire to require that all able-bodied adults applying for food stamps have to submit to a drug tested, among other requests. Reports state that Walker’s letter said that states can

“-effectively develop and deliver initiatives that align with your goal to make America great again.”

Walker told the Associated Press that he was optimistic that President-Elect Trump would respond quickly once he has taken office. Governor Walker also released a statement reinstating his position regarding a state’s rights. He wrote that,

“Too often, states have become mere administrative provinces of an all-powerful federal government in Washington. Now is the time to reverse that trend. These requests are the first of many my administration will make as Wisconsin leads the effort to restore balance between state and federal government.”

Apparently Governor Walker adamantly rejects the idea that drug testing for welfare is discrimination. He seems committed to this cause, regardless of what the federal government or statistics have told him.

The Failure of Drug-Testing for Food Stamps

As it stands now, federal law prohibits mandatory drug tests for food stamp recipients. Still, that doesn’t seem to bother Walker, who sued the federal government last year for the right to drug test food stamp recipients and those who receive unemployment benefits. In this campaign for a stricter policy, Walker claimed the drug testing was to be if there was “reasonable suspicion” of drug use. However, the suit was never able to gain any traction.

The kicker is, even if Walker were able to make his plan for drug testing for food stamps a reality, these kinds of programs have proven time and time again to be an excessive waste of money and resources.

Some of the States that Tried Drug Testing for Food Stamps

  • In 2009, Arizona claimed that it would save $1.7 million annually by drug-testing welfare applicants. Yet after 6 years it had only saved approximately $4,000
  • In 2013, Missouri spent $493,000 on similar testing, butrecorded just 20 positive results.
  • In 2014, Mississippi launched a program drug testing for food stamps. Out of the first 5 months, only 38 people out of 3,656 were tested, and only 2 tested positive.
  • Tennessee had a drug testing for food stamps program, but it only ended up denying 30 people out of 28,559 applicants. Again, the cost of testing outweighed the cost of benefits saved.
  • Florida lost out BIG with their drug testing for food stamps program. The state recorded a loss of $45,780… after only a four-month period from July to October 2012!

Not to mention it was later revealed by the American Civil Liberties Union that Scott had spent $400,000 in taxpayer money to defend his program and appeal the court rulings that it was unconstitutional, a fight which he inevitably had to give up.

These are just a few examples of failed initiatives requiring drug testing for food stamps.

The Problem in the Programs

In a serious shade-throwing piece regarding Wisconsin’s run for drug testing for welfare, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stated last year,

“Governor Walker hasn’t read the law. It’s always a good idea before you start litigation to understand what the law is.”

In a similar discussion in 2014, the USDA told the state of Georgia,

“Requiring SNAP applicants and recipients to pass a drug test in order to receive benefits would constitute an additional condition of eligibility, and therefore, is not allowable under law.”

This debate always comes to the argument of “if someone has to drug test to have a job, others should have to drug test to get taxpayer money in the form of welfare.” The reality is, not everyone has to drug test in order to get a job. Clearly, as these past few years we have seen a massive hike in drug abuse, overdose and drug-related fatalities. To insinuate that all these people are unemployed is just ridiculous.

My favorite idea was to require drug testing for the wealthy to receive tax breaks, but that idea didn’t get quite as much support from government officials for some weird reason.

Another side of that implication is why many are offended by these programs, because they believe it assumes everyone who is poor and needs government assistance is a drug user. Even beyond that, others say it is harsh to deny those who could possibly be struggling with drugs and condemn them to a cycle of crime and abuse.

Either way, Wisconsin’s governor seems pretty confident that the way to “Make America Great Again” is by drug testing for food stamps, no matter how many times it has been ineffective or far too expensive to justify.

An addict isn’t ‘scared straight’ by these kinds of tactics, and our country is seeing the importance of treatment instead of punishment. There is a way out, and Palm Partners is here to provide effective treatment for those willing to seek help. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free  now.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Trump Says He Will Defeat Opiate Epidemic… With THE WALL

Trump Says He Will Defeat Opiate Epidemic… With THE WALL

Author: Justin Mckibben

By now everyone who is paying any attention to politics has heard about the Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. And if you have heard of Trump, you have heard of his infamous wall. Yes, THE WALL. The ‘life-saving, world changing, country resurrecting’ wall. Let us just call it THE GREAT WALL OF ‘MERICA! Because, it will of course be greater than that shabby wall some people in China seem to think is so great.

I digress… It appears that this wall will do more than inspire racial division. Apparently THE WALL will also solve the opioid epidemic in America.

Yes… that’s what he said…

Building a wall between the United States and Mexico, according to his recent statements, will be the best solution to this issue.

The Wall against Opiates

This astonishing revelation was made during a town hall meeting in Columbus, Ohio on Monday where Trump was doing a little Q&A with the curious citizens of the capitol city in the Buckeye State. After an audience member asked him to “cut off the source” of heroin, Trump stated:

“We’re not gonna let this crap come into our country and poison our youth and poison our people, and it comes in mostly from the southern border,”

Granted, since the 1990’s statistically the primary supplier of heroin to North America has been Latin America and Mexican cartels. So this whole concept of blocking the flow of heroin into the country isn’t entirely baseless. However, Mexico is definitely not the only way heroin gets into America. The source is also definitely not the only element to the outbreak. Let us focus on his thought process just to point out where else he speaks with a heavy stigma accent.

Heroin Problem Place?

To elaborate on his plan, Trump talked about campaigning in New Hampshire. His time there helped him realize the extent of the heroin epidemic. Voters in New Hampshire town hall meetings consistently said that their biggest concern was heroin, which surprised Trump. The next thing he had to say was unsettling in a different context.

“My first victory was New Hampshire, which is a beautiful, beautiful place … This doesn’t look like it’s a heroin like problem type place,”

So wait… he means to say that only bad parts of town or less “beautiful” places are where he expects to find heroin addiction? Since he didn’t elaborate on where he would expect to see it, does this imply that Ohio is a place not pretty enough to be off Trump’s “heroin problem place” check list?

Ok, maybe those aren’t his words either. Still, thinking only certain people in certain places have a heroin problem shows he’s out of touch with the epidemic. Not to mention how disconnected this kind of thinking is from the truth about addiction.

While Trump was explaining his plan to wall off the drug problem in America, he said,

“They say, Mr. Trump, it is flowing across our southern border.”

But maybe… just maybe the New Hampshire residents were referring to the border between New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Drugs regularly travel in bulk via interstate highways into New Hampshire and the rest of New England from this area. So perhaps Mexico is way more south than New Hampshire is saying we should be looking.

WALL is LIFE

What Trump did fail to acknowledge is that many powerful opioids that end up on the black market, like fentanyl, originate from Chinese suppliers. So even if we make a huge dent in the heroin supply from Mexico, there are still plenty of countries that have been sending it over for years.

Also, Trump should note the accessibility of prescription drugs is a major driving factor for the opioid crisis. He didn’t, but he should. To have a comprehensive plan, you absolutely have to include addressing the Big Pharma companies involved in opiate medication production.

Trump did finally acknowledge the need for treatment. This is the best thing to come out of the discussion, because he did admit,

“It’s very hard to get out of that addiction, of heroin. We’re gonna work with them, we’re gonna spend the money, we’re gonna get that habit broken.”

This claim at least notes the vital need for treatment options, but lacks any structure or outline on how to address it. Any complete idea on how to defeat the opiate epidemic should include education, intervention and innovations for addiction treatment. But it seems Mr. Trump is more concerned with the U.S.-Mexico border.

#WallisLife

Addiction treatment, education and prevention should not be cliff-notes to a drug policy centered on a grandiose design for this wall that is prophesized to “make America great again” by keeping the “bad people” out. It should be centered on the concept of compassion and awareness- two things that, like I pointed out earlier, Trump seems to be in short supply of concerning addiction.

I’ve said it before… the future of our nation should have no room for stigma, we need leaders who are willing to serve the interest of every American. Drug abuse and addiction is a devastating and deadly disease, and more needs to be done to help people besides blaming someone. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, think about who you want to be working with to find a real solution. If you are looking for a way to get your life back, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

Trump Shows Stigma in Comments on Drug Related Prisoners Released

Trump Shows Stigma in Comments on Drug Related Prisoners Released

Author: Justin Mckibben

The most controversial presidential candidate in the running for the 2016 elections is at it again. Mr. Donald Trump attempts to touch on the drug issues in America with an attack on President Obama’s decision to release thousands of inmates from prisons across the country for non-violent drug crimes, with statements that reek of stigma claiming “every single one” will return to dealing drugs.

With drug addiction and how to address the failed War on Drugs in the United States being such a pivotal topic in the presidential campaigns this year most candidates are trying to empathize with the people who are struggling, as well as those who have become victims of the old fashioned and outdated tactics the nation has used in the past to deal with the drug problem. By the masses politicians, law enforcement and citizens everywhere have turned to supporting compassionate and innovative solutions to helping de-stigmatize addiction and drug abuse in order to help inspire progress, but it seems Trump can’t help himself- he has to say stuff that only makes sense in the timeworn and unserviceable rhetoric of the past to stir the pot.

6,000 Reasons to Drop the Stigma

By the end of 2015 President Barrack Obama had released 6,000 inmates from prison as part of his administration’s efforts to downsize the federal prison system and reduce sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. Now this wasn’t just President Obama throwing caution to the wind and letting loose convicted felons for the heck of it, the release was made on the recommendation of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which is an independent agency created by Congress in the judicial branch of the government.

In New Hampshire town hall this past Monday, February 8th, Donald Trump talked to the crowd at one of his rallies, saying in regards to the inmates Obama released that:

“These people are babies that think differently. And a lot of them don’t even think differently, they just don’t care. Frankly, I don’t even think they care, it’s almost like they don’t like the country. But out of those 6,000, every single one of them will be back selling drugs. It’ll be very rare for one that doesn’t.”

So it would seem that the concept of destroying the stigma surrounding drug abuse, addiction and drug related issues is completely lost on good ol’ Donald.

While he tried to connect with voters who had family members who had struggled or even died from drug addiction and overdose, what he seems to be overlooking is that a huge percentage of people who are incarcerated for drug dealing or drug possession are actually addicts themselves, many of which deal drugs to support their habits, and others who have been arrested with drugs and sentenced to long terms of punishment that were never drug kingpins or drug dealers but just sick people who get caught one too many times.

Now I’m not saying at all that there shouldn’t be punishment for breaking the law, but what I will say is that the point of these prisoners being released is to break the destructive cycle of stuffing industrial prisons full of sick and suffering addicts to only prolong their struggles when they are eventually released.

So far the only solution to drug related issues Trump seems to offer with any true avocation is building a border wall to keep out cartels. It seems he thinks putting up a road-block and putting more people in prison is the best way to fight the drug epidemic. Other than that he seems to believe people like these prisoners are suffering from a mental infancy or a moral decay that is only addressable by prison.

With the presidential race heating up, it seems we should be paying pretty close attention to the things these candidates have to say about the very people they are meant to serve. Some of them seem to think being president is more about being a bully and telling the world what to do, but isn’t the president just another servant of the people? We forget this person is supposed to work for us, not the other way around. The future of our nation should have no room for stigma, we need leaders who are willing to serve the interest of every American, not just those they feel are worthy of their freedom. Drug abuse and addiction is a devastating and deadly disease, and more needs to be done to help people struggling instead of punishing them. There is real help out there. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, think about who you want to be working with to find a real solution. If you are looking for a way to get your life back, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

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