Dying waiting for treatment: New Senate Committee on Finance report shocks the nation
Every 18 minutes, a life is lost to opioid overdose in the U.S. alone. How can this possibly happen? Good question.
The Democratic Staff of the Senate Committee on Finance (SCF) just released a shocking report on Oct. 10, 2016, entitled “Dying Waiting for Treatment: The Opioid Use Disorder Treatment Gap and the Need for Funding.” The report highlights the ever-increasing opioid use disorder epidemic and the lack of federal funding for treatment programs.
According to the report, states hit the hardest by the epidemic include Oregon, California, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. California has the highest opioid-related fatality rate. California hospitals treat about one overdose every 45 minutes. Most affected are the rural counties, which also have the least amount of access to treatment.
A clear discrepancy exists between the need for care and what is currently available, as the following survey findings illustrate:
- One in 112 Americans have opioid use disorder.
- There are only enough providers to treat 1 in 238.
- Only 1 in 834 actually receive treatment.
- Patients with opioid use disorder are at constant risk of death each day they do not receive treatment. This SFC report seeks urgent funding to respond to this crisis.
Scope of the problem
The U.S. opioid crisis is not new and has been getting progressively worse over the past 15 years since the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), opioid overdose has become a leading cause of death in 25- to 54-year-olds – people who would otherwise be in the prime of their lives. America buried nearly half a million people from opioid overdoses between 2000 and 2014 alone.
As tragic as these premature deaths are, the untold suffering people with opioid addiction endure is unquantifiable, unlike deaths and dollars. Many describe their suffering as a living hell, regretting ever taking drugs in the first place. Opioids, including prescription painkillers, heroin and methadone destroy lives, families, communities and societies. There is a plan in place that could help, but it has not received adequate funding.
Great plan, but …
The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 (CARA) was passed on July 13 and promised to combat the opioid crisis in earnest. A few strategies outlined in CARA included:
- Expand access to naloxone to treat opioid overdose.
- Expand medication-assisted treatment programs.
- Establish education programs for opioid prescribers.
- Provide grants for nonresidential treatment for pregnant and postpartum women.
- Improve prescription drug monitoring and track drug diversion.
- Treat incarcerated people with addiction.
Allow people with convictions for possession or sale of illegal drugs to apply for federal student financial aid.
Where we stand
The American public remains largely unaware of the ways in which profit has played a role in the opioid epidemic, partly due to the fact that another SFC report detailing an investigation of certain pharmaceutical corporations and nonprofit agencies remains sealed. In any case, drug education and prevention measures are the best defense against profiteers. If the government won’t fund such programs, it is up to individual families and communities to join together to protect children and prevent the spread of this scourge.
Since then, CARA has received only $7.1 million split between the U.S. Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services, with only $3.27 million for treatment grants. Speaking solely in terms of dollars, the CDC recently estimated that the opioid crisis costs the U.S. economy $78.5 billion a year.
An amendment to the CARA bill was proposed that would have provided $920 million for treatment, but it was “rejected on a party line vote,” according to this new SCF report. A second amendment was proposed that would have provided funding of $600 million, but this was also blocked. As President Obama was signing CARA into law, he iterated his disappointment that the lack of funding “failed to provide any real resources for those seeking addiction treatment to get the care that they need.”
Sovereign Health is striving to bridge the treatment gap for people struggling with opioid addiction and other behavioral health problems. As a leader in the treatment of mental health problems, substance abuse and dual diagnosis, we tirelessly work to educate the public and advocate for the rights of those with mental illness. Our multimodal diagnostic assessment and comprehensive treatment approaches have been successful with the most challenging cases. After treatment, our continuing care program provides the long-term support patients need to transition from treatment to lasting recovery. To find out more about our programs at Sovereign Health, please call us at our 24/7 helpline.
About the author
Dana Connolly, Ph.D., is a senior staff writer for Sovereign Health, where she translates current research into practical information. She earned her Ph.D. in research and theory development from New York University and has decades of experience in clinical care, medical research and health education. Sovereign Health is a health information resource, and Dr. Connolly helps to ensure excellence in our model. For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at email@example.com.