Friday, July 8th was a big day in the movement to end opioid addiction. In a nearly unanimous vote, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) bill was passed 407-5 by the House of Representatives. With existing support from the Senate, the bill is expected to move quickly from Congress and into the hands of President Obama by next week for approval.
Surely, this is great news for those who have struggled with opioid addiction or withdrawal, as well as for the many friends and family members who have seen a loved one struggle or die at the hands of dangerous opiates.
Despite the great news, there is a caveat. The CARA bill was initially stalled in its passing as numerous Democrats had refused to sign the bill due to the belief that there was not enough funding allocated to treatment services in the proposed plan. Earlier this year, President Obama had proposed $1.1 billion in funding to combat the opioid epidemic, which was not reflected in the CARA bill passing on Friday –there continues to be disagreements concerning how much the CARA bill should be funded, with talk of funding closer to $500 million.
While funding remains a top concern, any investment in the CARA bill is a step in the right direction, which was the reasoning that ultimately swayed Democrat House members to support the bill.
In a message on the Facebook page of recovery group, Young People in Recovery, CEO Justin Luke Riley urges recovery advocates to stand up for the adequate funding of recovery, stating that while Congress has argued about what deserves national funding, people continue to die due to the lack of services and funding to combat opioid addiction – roughly 130 people every day – not counting addiction to other substances.
It is expected by many Democrat House members that Republicans quickly focus attention on increasing funding for treatment services in follow-up to the passing of the bill, as increased funding will be essential to saving lives and combatting the opioid epidemic.
Though funding will remain a top concern, the following advancements are being made with the passing of CARA, representing significant improvements for those struggling with opioid addiction.
- Expanding alcohol and drug prevention and education
- Expanding the availability of Narcan (Naloxone)
- Increasing collaboration with law enforcement and criminal justice systems
- Creating more disposal and turn-in sites for unwanted prescription medications
- Increasing availability of treatment including evidence-based and medication-assisted programs
- Creating prescription drug monitoring programs to help at-risk individuals access critical services
Additionally, the bill will revise policies to increase the ability for physicians to prescribe medications that will help treat addiction, as well as continued education for physicians and adherence to prescriber guidelines.
Though these improvements are significant, access and funding for treatment services is of critical importance.
Regarding funding of the CARA bill, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), has stated that the legislation “is only a small step at a time when the American people need us to run.”
The passing of the CARA bill should be celebrated within the recovery movement, yet continued advocacy and urges to fund recovery efforts is essential to saving lives and ending the opioid epidemic. Our small steps must turn into sizable strides with great urgency – recovery is possible, but it takes societal change to help individuals in finding the services they need to recover.