Obama's National Drug Strategy Emphasizes Treatment, Recovery, Repeal of Barriers

May 13, 2010 - 1:58pm

by Nicole Collins Bronzan Communications Director, Legal Action Center

LAC Applauds National Drug Strategy, Urges Allocation of Sufficient Funding for Prevention, Treatment and Recovery and Repeal of Discriminatory Barriers

NEW YORK, May 12, 2010 — The Legal Action Center commends President Obama, Director Kerlikowske and the Office of National Drug Control Policy on its new strategy released yesterday. With an admirable goal of reducing illicit drug use by 15 percent in five years, the strategy wisely focuses on preventing and treating addiction and promoting recovery after decades of an ineffectual "war on drugs."

"President Obama's first national drug strategy charts a new – and most welcome – course that for the first time in decades places major emphasis on preventing and treating drug and alcohol problems and helping people with substance use disorders recover," said Paul N. Samuels, director and president of LAC.

The Center particularly supports the following changes, which are in line with the recommendations made by LAC, after consultation with many experts, in the 2008 report "Roadmap for Smarter and More Effective Alcohol and Drug Policies":

  • Expanding community-based prevention.
  • Increasing the number of people in treatment through non-discriminatory coverage in both Medicaid and private insurance "at parity" with other illnesses.
  • Treating, not incarcerating, those in the criminal justice system struggling with addiction.
  • Expanding syringe-exchange and other programs that help stop the spread of HIV.
  • Expanding recovery support services.
  • Reviewing and rolling back legal barriers that prevent people in recovery from having access to housing, employment, driver's licenses, student loans and other necessities of life.
  • Integrating addiction screening and treatment into primary health care.

This shift is much-needed on the frontlines of addiction treatment and prevention in the U.S. Of the 23.1 million people age 12 or older who needed treatment in 2008, less than 10 percent received it, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. That leaves more than 20 million people without the care they need. And initiatives proven successful in preventing alcohol and drug problems do not reach most of our young people.

"These measures, if implemented effectively, will make the American dream a much healthier one for millions of Americans and their families," Samuels said, but pointed out that funding and decisive action will be critical to effective implementation of the 2010 National Drug Control Strategy. "The administration and Congress must allocate the resources and enact the legislation necessary to make that dream come alive," he said.

LAC's Roadmap for Smarter and More Effective Alcohol and Drug Policies lays out a blueprint for effective implementation, with the following recommendations:

  • Invest an additional $1 billion per year, phased in over five years, to implement a comprehensive community-based prevention strategy.
  • Invest $4 billion more annually, phased in over five years, to provide drug and alcohol treatment and recovery services to an additional one million Americans. Effective implementation of health care reform's provisions for substance use disorder treatment will go a long way toward closing the addiction gap, but they do not take effect until 2014. We need change – and dramatic expansion of addiction and recovery support services – now.
  • Improve public safety, strengthen families, and save taxpayer dollars by targeting prevention, treatment, and recovery support at young people and adults in the criminal and juvenile justice and child welfare systems.

The Legal Action Center is the only public interest law and policy organization in the United States whose sole mission is to fight discrimination against and protect the privacy of people in recovery from alcohol or drug addiction, individuals living with HIV/AIDS, and people with criminal records.

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