John Delaney: For New Hampshire, we need long-term solutions to the opioid epidemic

  • Delaney

For the Monitor
Published: 7/12/2019 8:29:03 AM
Modified: 7/12/2019 8:28:52 AM

Talk with anyone who has struggled with opioid abuse and they’ll tell you about the challenges of long-term recovery. They’ll tell you that addiction is a disease that has no quick answer, and that recovery takes the shape of a journey.

I’m a strong believer that the same can be said of our work to put an end to the opioid epidemic. We have a long road ahead of us as we work to help the more than two million Americans struggling with opioid addiction.

While in New Hampshire last week, I announced a new, expansive national plan to address the opioid crisis head on by strengthening prevention efforts, investing in mental health care, supporting evidence-based treatment programs and driving economic development.

Earlier this year, I convened a round table in Manchester to hear from experts in New Hampshire and persons in recovery about how we can better address the crisis of addiction. I heard from one grandmother who watched her son recover from opioid abuse only to see her grandson die from an overdose. I heard from treatment programs struggling to provide the long-term resources needed to help recovering patients. I heard from people who battled with addiction themselves and who found the healing power of fellowship through organizations like N.H. Hope for Recovery.

New Hampshire has already made great strides toward addressing the opioid epidemic. Thanks to Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan and Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas, New Hampshire received another $12 million in federal funds this year for its new hub-and-spoke treatment system.

This March, I toured Dover Doorway, one of the nine regional hubs in New Hampshire that are expanding access to treatment services for people struggling with addiction. While Dover Doorway only just opened this year, I saw firsthand how the program is already helping people receive the guidance and support they need.

But the grant funding received by New Hampshire is only a start toward ending the opioid crisis. The road to recovery is long, and for our nation to move forward, we have to redouble our efforts to end the epidemic.

My plan begins that work with a prevention program that would stop more Americans from spiraling into addiction.

As president, I would require physicians who prescribe opioids for longer than three days to have the patient sign a disclosure clearly explaining the addictive nature of opioids and the increased potential for addiction the longer a patient takes opioids. Education and a frank and honest conversation between doctors and patients are some of the best tools we have to prevent addiction.

My plan also requires doctor education on safe opioid prescription practices to ensure that physicians know both the dangers of opioids and what alternatives can be used to treat patients.

For those who are struggling with an addiction, we must widen the path to recovery. That means investing in and increasing access to mental health services by enforcing and expanding mental health parity laws rather than pushing struggling Americans into our criminal justice system. For those who are in prison, we need to create access to evidence-based substance use disorder treatments.

My plan also requires federal, state and private payers to cover medication-assisted treatment and behavioral health counseling without significant copayments or administrative barriers. Our response to opioid addiction cannot be isolation and confinement, but rather access to the treatments that we know work.

We also need to connect people in long-term recovery with jobs and service opportunities in their communities. At my roundtable in Manchester earlier this year, I heard from individuals who, as addicts, felt discarded, as if their communities saw no value in them. My national plan to address the opioid epidemic provides skills training, job and service opportunities, and housing support to those in recovery. For recovery to stick, we must provide individuals with the social services they need to help rebuild their lives.

I’m a strong believer that, as a country, we have more in common than we have that divides us. That has felt true during every visit I’ve made to New Hampshire. At every town hall and meet and greet I’ve held, my conversations with voters stay focused on solutions, not partisan politics.

Working together, we can put an end to the opioid epidemic. We won’t get there overnight or over the next year, but by creating a stronger mental health system, strengthening prevention efforts and helping those with addiction rebuild their lives, we can stop the crisis that has hurt millions of American families.

As a nation, our path to recovery will be a journey, but a journey which I believe we can come out of stronger than we were before.

(John Delaney of Maryland is a Democratic candidate for president.)

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