Evidence-Based Solutions for Stopping the Opioid Crisis

A coalition of 240 organizations came together to urge Congress to pass legislation to fight the opioid crisis.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that more than 100,000 people in the United States died of overdose in the 12 months ending April 2020. In response, the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), National Harm Reduction Coalition, and People’s Action and VOCAL-NY led a group of 240 civil rights, drug policy, criminal justice reform, public health, and faith-based organizations in urging members of Congress to pass legislation that will prioritize the beating the overdose crisis.

They specifically urged Congress to consider evidence-based public health approaches, including critical harm reduction funding, the MAT Act, the STOP Fentanyl Act, and the Medicaid Reentry Act.

“With over 100,000 people dying of overdose in the US during the first year of the pandemic, passing these critical pieces of legislation is not only more urgent than ever before—it’s literally a matter of life and death for so many people,” said Maritza Perez, Director of the Office of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance.

“We are far past the point of waiting for a politically convenient time to take the necessary steps to curb this crisis and save lives. The US Government has targeted and criminalized our communities for drugs over the last 50 years as a political ploy which has only fueled the overdose crisis. With countless more lives at stake, it’s time to stop playing politics and continuing down this ill-fated path. It is absolutely imperative that policymakers change course immediately and prioritize evidence-based public health alternatives that are proven to actually save lives.”

Their statement urges Congress to enact life-saving legislation by the end of the 2022, including the following 4 items:

1. $69.5 million in funding to increase access to overdose prevention, harm reduction, and syringe service programs through the CDC’s Infectious Diseases and the Opioid Epidemic program.

2. The Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act, which eliminates the outdated requirement that practitioners apply for a separate waiver through the Drug Enforcement Administration to prescribe buprenorphine for the treatment of substance use disorders.

3. The Support, Treatment, and Overdose Prevention of Fentanyl Act, or the STOP Fentanyl Act, which improves fentanyl surveillance and detection.

4. The Medicaid Reentry Act, which would allow Medicaid to cover health services during the last 30 days of incarceration and create better linkages to community-based care during reentry.

“We know how to fix the overdose crisis—through evidence-based, public health solutions,” said Sondra Youdelman, People’s Action Campaigns Director. “Our communities just suffered a record-breaking 100,000 preventable overdose deaths in a single year. Instead of continuing to criminalize drug use, Congress needs to take evidenced-based action now, and listen to the people who lost 100,000 loved ones.”

Jasmine Budnella, Director of Drug Policy at VOCAL-NY, echoed these sentiments: “Our nation is at a heartbreaking, infuriating watershed moment. With over 100,000 of our loved ones dying from a preventable overdose, it is a grave failure that evidence-based solutions proven to turn the tide on the overdose crisis remain out of reach. Congress must heed the calls for urgent action, and pass legislation rooted in science, harm reduction, and care before the new year. If our leaders fail to act, another year of devastating and historic overdose deaths is inevitable.”

This article originally appeared on Psychiatric Times.

Reference

1. Drug Policy Alliance. As overdose crisis claims record lives, coalition of 240 organizations urge Congress to pass lifesaving public health bills. News release. November 30, 2021. Accessed December 1, 2021. https://drugpolicy.org/press-release/2021/11/overdose-crisis-claims-record-lives-coalition-240-organizations-urge-congress