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.
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.
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
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.
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:
- 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
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Justin Mckibben
Addiction is not an easy problem to address. It is a complex issue with many variables, so of course there is no simple answer to fix it. There is no one-size-fits-all solution; no monopoly on the right kind of treatment. It is understandable that there is a degree of effectiveness with utilizing any medical means available to try and address addiction, but are maintenance drugs really the answer?
Surely medication assisted treatment is useful, and it helps a lot of people. Most inpatient treatment programs utilize some form of medication to ease withdrawal symptoms and other side-effects of long-term drug use. The detox period of treatment usually focuses on medically assisting someone struggling with drugs in this transition.
However, is getting people off of one drug by making them dependent on another really the best case scenario? It seems now insurance companies are putting more effort into using maintenance drugs to treat addiction. Is this really a better strategy?
Firstly, let us make a clear definition of what maintenance drugs are. Typically, the definition of maintenance drugs is along the lines of prescriptions commonly used to treat conditions that are considered chronic or long-term. These conditions usually require regular, daily use of medicines.
Examples of common maintenance drugs are medications such as:
- Fluticasone and salmeterol (Advair Diskus) which is used to treat asthma
- Insulin glargine (Lantus) used to treat diabetes
If you consider these examples the point is that people use these medications to “manage” their illness, not to overcome or remedy it. So looking at the issue of addiction, there are some well-known maintenance drugs, specifically concerning opioid addiction.
These medications can be effective, but they also present a level of danger themselves. Even though doctors prescribe them to combat withdrawals, they actually can create their own devastating withdrawals, especially with long term use.
Aetna Aims for Maintenance Drugs
Aetna is one of the nation’s largest insurance companies. In a recent Aetna report, the company is prepared to remove a major restriction for patients seeking maintenance drugs for opioid addiction. The change is set to begin this coming March. Aetna is the third major health insurer to announce such a shift in policy in recent months, now in league with Anthem and Cigna insurers.
To be more specific, this insurance company will stop requiring doctors to seek approval before they prescribe particular medications that are used to combat withdrawal symptoms. One of these medications is suboxone, a well-known medication that many people use to fight opiate addiction.
The common insurance practice is known as “prior authorization”. The reason they are seeking to eliminate this policy is because it sometimes results in delays of hours to days before a patient can get the medications.
This new approach to regulation of maintenance drugs impacts all its private insurance plans, an Aetna spokeswoman confirmed.
Advocates of Maintenance Drugs
Addiction treatment advocates to support having expanded access to maintenance drugs. Dr. Corey Waller, an emergency physician who chairs the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s legislative advocacy committee, states:
“It’s a first-line, Food and Drug Administration-approved therapy for a disease with a known mortality. [For] every other disease with a known mortality, the first-line drugs are available right away.”
Essentially, the idea that parity laws require insurers to cover addiction treatments at the same level as other kinds of healthcare means these kinds of medication should be available for immediate access. This should be the same for all forms of addiction treatment.
Opinion: Treatment over Maintenance
While many would argue that maintenance drugs are a form of treatment, it is still a relevant argument that maintenance drugs are also imperfect and could actually be harmful if they become the cookie-cutter answer implemented by most insurers.
While harm reduction is understandable, and maintenance drugs can help people struggling with heroin or other dangerous opioids avoid other serious risks, the fact is many maintenance drugs include their own side-effects. Some often become subject to abuse themselves.
For instance, suboxone can be useful as a harm reduction tactic, but it can also be abused. Many people who have used suboxone as a long-term solution have found themselves battling suboxone withdrawal symptoms. The dangers of suboxone are very relevant.
The same, if not worse, has often been said about methadone maintenance drugs. While they may keep someone alive to get treatment, there should still be a strong emphasis on treatment itself. Maintenance drugs are most effective when part of a program. They are not a substitute for a treatment program.
Treatment should focus on finding solutions, not prolonging the suffering. Drug and alcohol addiction treatment should come from a holistic approach that addresses more than just physical ailments. Holistic treatment focuses on providing extensive and personalized therapy, combined with physical and emotional heal. If insurance companies want to focus on combining rational medical resources with comprehensive treatment, then this could be a great thing. However, if the focus becomes a quick-fix drug option opposing a full recovery through treatment, it only adds to the danger.
Maintenance drugs have support from the recovery community, but typically they must be accompanied by therapy and other means of treatment. Maintenance drugs are just that- drugs. They are often powerful narcotics, and are true to their title- “maintenance,” not a permanent solution.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Runners, walkers and volunteers… take your mark and run to the rescue!
Palm Partners and Palm Healthcare are proudly supporting an event hosted by the Harrigan Foundation on February 6th, 2016 that is dedicated to trying to help find a way to best serve the amazing men and women who bravely serve their communities as First Responders.
What most people don’t know is that after experiencing terrible accidents day after day first responders can actually suffer from very serious trauma or even develop harsh addictions. Some recent shocking stats have shown:
- Firefighters: Up to 29% if firefighters engage in alcohol abuse.
- Police: 25% believe drinking to be part of the norm yet 25% have been affected negatively by the drinking of other coworkers.
- EMTs: EMTs have the highest rate of alcohol and drug abuse. It’s been revealed that 40% engage in high risk alcohol abuse and close to 20% experience PTSD.
Run to the Rescue will be our first annual 5K/1 mile walk here in the incredible beautiful scenery of Delray Beach, Florida. The Harrigan Foundation is a non-profit organization designed to actively pursue new and exciting resources. The foundation plans to volunteer time and make a positive impact in the community. The Harrigan Foundation has previously committed itself to serving the community in other ways such as the Basket Brigade during the Thanksgiving holiday season, and now we are working toward making a difference in more lives than ever.
For the First Responders
The Run to the Rescue event is one organized by the Harrigan Foundation and supported by Palm Healthcare that is determined to sponsor First Responders who suffer from addiction and/or trauma disorders. This includes the amazing and courageous men and women who serve as:
Honoring the great deal of devotion, sacrifice and compassion it takes to become one of these every day heroes the Harrigan Foundation has devoted itself to honoring the valiant individuals who work tirelessly to protect life and liberty.
Sponsor a Hero
The Run to the Rescue 5K/1 mile walk will be a fun and exciting way to help raise money to fund the Palm Healthcare scholarship program in order to sponsor any treatment our First Responders may need. These heroes have already done so much for us, and it is a chance for a call to action in order to give back.
The race is set to begin at Anchor Park in Delray Beach, Florida- 340 South Ocean Blvd. Starting whistle will be sounding off at 7:00AM with walkers following shortly after. Event details are as follows:
The Run to the Rescue 5K
- Time: 7:00AM EST- 9:00AM EST
- Price of Admission: $30 (price increases December 31, 2015 at 11:59PM EST)
The Run to the Rescue 1 Mile Walk
- Time: 7:15AM EST- 9:00AM EST
- Price of Admission: $10 (Registration ends February 1, 2016 at 11:59PM EST)
- Time: 6:00AM EST- 9:00AM EST
- Price of Admission: FREE (Registration ends February 1, 2016 at 11:59PM EST)
So for those who are not interested in running, there is still an opportunity to participate in the event and show support. The 5K will be a timed through AccuChip, while all people interested in walking the race are encouraged to bring their children.
There will also be snacks and refreshments before and after for all those who chose to step up and become part of this awesome experience with us. Not to mention an awards ceremony to celebrate those who came to compete with compassion.
For more information or to get registered to participate you can go to https://runsignup.com/Race/FL/DelrayBeach/HFRuntotheRescue5K and take part in this inspiring event to help change the lives of the remarkable and courageous men and women who work every day to save lives.
No first responder should have to stop doing their job because of the disease of addiction. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Some say justice is blind, I say justice is Batman, but regardless of your definition you are sure to think there has been a fair amount of injustice in the way America has handled the war on drugs and non-violent drug offenders. Not saying that stopping drug trafficking and other serious issues isn’t the right thing, but the war on drugs has made villains with convictions out of victims of addiction.
Already in the past few months we have seen President Obama work to pardon a few dozen non-violent drug offenders, citing the justice system itself as essentially being a victim of the failed war on drugs, forcing America’s prisons to be overcrowded with people who have received unduly harsh sentences for non-violent drug crimes.
Now the United States Justice Department is setting its sights on releasing thousands more non-violent drug offenders, which would become part of a vastly different approach to drug policy in America.
Pattern of Drug Pardons
You may remember back in April we saw President Obama commuted the prison sentences of 22 prisoners convicted on drug-related crimes, in effect shortening their sentences, 8 of which had been sentenced to life. Then in July of this year we heard about Obama trying to commute even more prison sentences.
Well now think back even farther!
In July of 2014 the U.S. Sentencing Commission unanimously voted a resounding ‘YES’ to lowering guidelines of prison sentences for most federal drug law violators, with retroactive effectiveness.
That would mean to include all offenders currently serving federal prison sentences on drug charges under certain guidelines for eligibility.
This piece of legislation was set to apply to nearly 50,000 people and when we wrote about this in July of 2014 we noted no one would be eligible for release until November 1st, 2015… well guess what is right around the corner!
Now in an attempt to do that legislation some justice (which I would personally consider of Batman proportions) the Justice Department recently announced a plan to release 6,000 inmates early from prison!
The Big Prison Break
Taking the cake as one of the single largest discharges of inmates from federal prison in American history, the Bureau of Prisons will be releasing collections of inmates from federal prisons all across the nation between October 30th and November 2nd.
That Sentencing Commission’s action to remove the penalties for many non-violent drug crimes is what is finally bringing this to fruition. The changes implemented by that vote back in July of last year has officially been retroactively applied to thousands of prisoners serving harsh sentences under draconian drug laws.
The release comes at a time where many are critical of the prison-industrial complex, which disproportionately incarcerates the poor and people of color. Jesselyn McCurdy, senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, stated to the press:
“Today’s announcement is nothing short of thrilling because it carries justice. Far too many people have lost years of their lives to draconian sentencing laws born of the failed drug war. People of color have had to bear the brunt of these misguided and cruel policies. We are overjoyed that some of the people so wronged will get their freedom back.”
So this is kind of like one big prison break for thousands of individuals who had been locked up and stringently punished in a manner many now consider to not be fitting of the crimes they have been convicted of, and under this new deal these non-violent drug offenders are finally being given a new opportunity to reform.
All of this seems like part of the new understanding the country as a whole is starting to see when it comes to drug abuse and addiction. So see it as taking a jab at the stigma of addicts being morally corrupt and acknowledging them as sick and suffering individuals instead of making a blanket statement that anyone caught with drugs is a dangerous criminal.
New Deal for Drug Offenders
Under the new guidelines, prisoners are capable of requesting that federal judges reevaluate their sentences with new understanding. And this doesn’t mean anyone and everyone just gets a free-pass; the system is still being careful who to pick and choose when it comes to letting convicts back on the streets.
Each inmates’ behavior while serving their sentence to this point will be examined, and the judges will decide whether they are likely to be violent upon their release. It would probably be just as irresponsible to just assume every inmate is non-violent as it is to assume they’re all violent, so there will be a screening process in order to determine whether inmates can be considered eligible.
And the inmates are also not just being let loose. After release many non-violent drug offenders will be relocated to halfway houses or be placed on temporary home confinement in order to make sure they are safely and effectively re-integrated into society.
Of course some federal judges, prosecutors, and police officials are adamant critics of this plan, and it makes sense to be concerned that releasing such a large number of inmates at once into a community might create a spike in crime, however many have refuted these arguments, citing studies showing if prisoners are released into welcoming environments, with sufficient job opportunities and resources, they are less likely to recidivate.
Yes, it is understandable to be a little skeptical, but at the end of the day if we are willing to provide support and structure to help these former-inmates find a productive niche in their communities, we should have a lot less to worry about.
One of the big issues with congesting our prisons with non-violent drug offenders is that we are feeding into a pattern of poverty, substance abuse and prison. All part of why these days we are seeing so many innovative tactics from police departments and lawmakers making headlines for supporting drug and alcohol treatment in lieu of prison.
We as a nation are tired of seeing people suffer, and more and more lives are being affected by addiction every day. At the same time more people are witnessing how punishment doesn’t work, and treatment is there to transform lives, not restrict them. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, see the treatment that could save their life. Please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Justin Mckibben
Now is a time for innovation and taking initiative as the nation tries to actively create positive impacts in the lives of people who are struggling with addiction. Heroin has swept across every state to some degree, decimating the lives it pollutes and corroding every community in its path. We say it over and over because people need to recognize it; the opiate epidemic claims countless lives, and it is expected to only grow worse in the coming years unless we as a society respond with rigorous and drastic action.
Across America new methods are being enacted to try and find the formula for turning things around, with raising awareness being at the forefront of the efforts, while fighting stigma and promoting healthcare and assistance steadily increases.
Now one new program is stepping toward a progressive strategy, much like one witnessed earlier this year in Massachusetts, with extending offers to addicts for detox at Gosnold on Cape Cod, the largest treatment organization on the Cape… courtesy of the Falmouth police.
Making House Calls in Cape Cod
The Falmouth police department and Gosnold have joined forces to visit the homes of recent overdose victims in a mild attempt to stage an more stand-off style intervention, hoping to talk to addicts or their families about getting help.
This new program started with the Yarmouth police in February making follow-up visits to overdose survivors to offer them support and information, and after Gosnold CEO Ray Tamasi learned what the police were doin, he was inspired to get involved in trying to reshape his community. Tamasi said,
“We said we have people who know how to have that conversation better than the police might. And so I called the police and I offered one of our recovery coaches or family specialists to accompany officers to the homes.”
The program quickly made its way to Falmouth, Harwich and Dennis in recent months as police ride along with Gosnold coaches to visit overdose victims in their towns, while plans to partner with several other police departments are in the works.
Visit With a Purpose
Since January, at least 30 people have died on Cape Cod from drug overdoses, according to the Cape and Islands District Attorney’s office. Tamasi states that one direct purpose of this program to make these visits is to reduce overdose deaths. So far it seems to be doing a decent job, as monthly overdoses have indeed dropped since the program started.
The exceptional part of this kind of innovative strategy is the blending of police support and counseling roles educates both parties, while providing a fresh and more first-hand perspective of police to the drug users who they are trying to help, reestablishing trust.
- In February, both Yarmouth and Falmouth each had 14 overdoses
- In July, there were 7 in Falmouth and just 1 in Yarmouth
There have been an estimated 176 overdoses since January, according to Tamasi, in:
When you crunch those numbers it translates to someone nearly dying of an overdose, be it heroin or other opiates such as prescription painkillers, almost on a daily basis.
Front Lines of the Fight
Falmouth Police Chief Edward Dunne said the police’s limited involvement in responding to 9-1-1 calls concerning deadly drug overdoses was resulting in tremendously inadequate triumphs, and this reality was staring him in the face when it came time to make a change. The addiction was powerful, and beyond what many had initially expected.
When police and rescue workers return to the same address twice in one day to revive the same person with Narcan who finds themselves again on the verge of death, it will truly wake people up to how devastating addiction can be, and how ill-equipped the current system is to change it. Simoneau put it quite simply,
“The system is broken,”
That it is sir… that it is.
Out of Dennis, Yarmouth, Harwich and Falmouth:
- Counselors have met up with 71 addicts
- Out of those, 22 have entered inpatient treatment
So while it is only about 1/3 of the addicts they have met up with, 22 lives potentially saved is a massive victory in the face of such a despicable illness. After getting them into a 3-5 day stay in detox, there is still plenty of work ahead of the recovering addicts, but Tamasi and his team are ready to support that growth, believing in staying connected and providing assistance to the addicts after completing treatment.
Police Chief Dunne said he feels good about the program and all the progress it has managed to make thus far, and has expressed that he plans to expand in response to other types of 9-1-1 calls, such as pairing police with mental health counselors to visit people who have called police in cases concerning mental illness.
Cape Cod Healthcare awarded Gosnold a $50,000 grant to expand the program into other communities with support from Cape Cod Healthcare’s executive director of Substance Abuse Prevention and Public Health Initiatives Cheryl Bartlett. Officials are hoping this program can ignite a new found spark in the action against overdose and addiction, while also giving a lot of addicts another chance at life. Supporting individuals and overcoming the overwhelming stigma and fear that tend to come hand in hand with drug addiction is paramount to solving the problem to any degree.
We must continue to advocate for the addict, whether they are recovering or not, because they are still people who still deserve the option of a way out. Nobody is beneath recovery, no one is a lost cause.
It truly makes me happy to hear about the police and recovering addicts working together to help people instead of going on expensive investigations into drug users like modern day witch hunts.
Changing the perspective is how we change the world, and maybe these recovery coaches can teach this cops more than a little bit about addiction, inspiring them to see the drug addict as more than a statistic, or a criminal. Maybe it will show addicts a renewed faith in the people sworn to protect and serve them.
Maybe that’s is the real gift of programs like this, the chance to change a few minds that could ultimately change everything.
Recovery is possible, and there is always help out there if you are willing to look. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135