Editor’s Note: As of September 29, 2016:
A temporary government funding bill passed by Congress on September 28 features a provision to fund opioid addiction treatment programs created by the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. The bill, which prevents a government shutdown and funds the federal government through December 8, includes $7 million for CARA. While this funding falls fall short of the original $1.1 billion that the Obama administration requested, the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers sees this as a good sign that Congress will continue to fund CARA when it lays out next year’s budget.
“This bill is like a Hollywood movie set – something that appears real on the surface but has no substance and no life behind its façade,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. Schumer is referring to the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which President Obama signed into law in July. While the act promises to provide a major boost to efforts against the rise of addiction, critics have complained that the act cannot fulfill its intentions without additional funding.
Provisions of CARA
CARA is Congress’s response to the opioid drug epidemic. First introduced in 2015, the bill is a bipartisan effort, the first of its kind, to allocate resources for opioids such as heroin and prescription drugs. It is divided into nine titles, from prevention and education to treatment and recovery.
The bill’s notable provisions include:
CARA allocates over $180 million annually to combat the opioid drug epidemic. Of that amount, $25 million is set aside each year for treatment and recovery. These monies are distributed as grants to entities that can prove their evidence-based practices are effective in treating opioid addiction. CARA also earmarks $1 million dollars annually for building communities of recovery. These include cooperation between government agencies, primary care providers and community organizations.
These provisions may sound great on paper, but there’s one major issue yet to be determined.
Where is the funding?
In order for a bill to be considered by Congress, the bill’s authors must stipulate how much money will be required for it to be viable. But just because funding the bill is following standard operating procedure, and despite the fact CARA was one of the few pieces of legislation to enjoy bipartisan support from this Congress, there is no guarantee it will be free from political maneuverings.
Schumer and other Democrats are angry that Republicans blocked additional funding for the bill. Obama asked for over $1 billion in the 2017 budget to fight addiction and expand treatment. Democrats attempted to add $920 million in funding to the bill. Republicans voted against both, arguing that treatment and prevention are separate and must be addressed as such when Congress next meets to discuss funding for bills.
While the bill’s original sponsor, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.Y., has expressed satisfaction with the way the bill in spite of its lack of funding, saying that “there is some value to the CARA programs, but there are eight of them that are not provided for at all in the appropriations process. So unless something happens, we’d have to wait to pick those up next year.”
What the future holds
All of this means that CARA may not necessarily deliver on everything it promises. Despite Whitehouse’s guarded optimism, there is no guarantee Congress will create new funding streams to fund all of the act’s provisions. The 114th Congress is the fourth under Obama. Beginning with the 111th in 2009 through the present, Congress has enacted, on average, just over 2 percent of laws put forward. And while it is true CARA was a bipartisan effort, the act was noteworthy because it was bipartisan.
The notable lack of bipartisan effort in Congress does not augur well for future funding streams for CARA. Even legislation so urgently warranted as CARA is not immune from politics. In spite of ultimately being passed by an overwhelming margin, the bill took over a year to become law.
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About the author:
Darren Fraser is a content writer for Sovereign Health Group. He worked two and half years as reporter and researcher for The Yomiuri Shimbun until they realized he did not read, speak or write Japanese and fired him. Undeterred, he channels his love of research into unearthing stories that provide hope to those dealing with addiction and mental illness. Darren loves the Montreal Canadiens hockey club and horror films and would prefer to enjoy these from the comforts of his family’s farm in Quebec. For more information about this media, contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.