Actor Daniel Baldwin and Recovery Advocates Call for Policy Change

By Paul Fuhr 11/01/17

"Public policy determines who recovers and who dies. We’re making it political, and we’re calling for reform now."

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daniel baldwin and donald trump
Lip service is not enough.

Actor Daniel Baldwin joined two fellow addiction recovery activists to pen a heartfelt editorial about the close-knit relationship between politics and addiction recovery in the United States.

The editorial, which appeared in The Huffington Post, was written as a wake-up call for Americans who don’t fully understand how politically charged the topic of addiction has become. “Public policy determines who recovers and who dies,” the activists claimed. “From criminal justice, to the FDA, to Medicare reform, every aspect of addiction and recovery is affected by politics. We’re making it political, and we’re calling for reform now.”

The editorial came on the heels of President Trump’s Oct. 26 declaration that the opioid crisis was officially a “public health emergency.” It also rebuked the Trump administration’s failure to stem the tide of addiction by not creating any real solutions for the millions of Americans wrestling with the opioid epidemic.

Baldwin, as well as addiction recovery advocates Ryan Hampton and Frank Jones, pushed for “swift, decisive, compassionate action and sweeping reform” in their stirring piece. “Recovery, and the way we treat people with the disease of addiction, is political to its core,” they wrote. “When we pretend like it’s not, we are condemning millions of Americans to suffer and die.”

Tired rhetoric and failed anti-drug campaigns do nothing to move the needle on sobering statistics, the writers contended. And yet, that’s precisely the position Trump seemed to take with his declaration, noting that the government would create “really tough, really big, really great advertising” to persuade Americans to avoid opioids entirely. “This was an idea that I had, where if we can teach young people not to take drugs, it’s really, really easy not to take them," Trump said. 

Not so fast, the editorial says. Addiction recovery remains as thoroughly complex and involved, despite Trump making it sound simple. “Although addiction is not, and never was, a moral failing, we still treat it like an unsolvable problem,” they wrote. “It’s not.”

In fact, America already has a roadmap to recovery, the editorial observed, pointing to the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016. The far-reaching, unprecedented bill marked a 180-degree pivot from familiar “war on drugs” messages to a more measured public health approach. Unfortunately, while the bill hurtled through the U.S. Senate with unanimous approval, it lost all momentum when it became a law; very few of the policies have been put into motion.

The Huffington Post piece asks for a complete overhaul of not only how addiction is regarded, but how people suffering from addiction are treated. Baldwin, Hampton and Jones remind us that “taking a stand against addiction does not mean taking a stand against people who struggle with substance use.”

The activists say that recovery is possible whenever the sick and suffering “have access to recovery programs, detox treatment, and after care in [their] communities.” Those services, however, remain “severely underfunded.” What’s worse, the writers contend, is that funding these programs is actually a win-win for everyone involved.

“Every $1 spent on treatment and recovery services frees up $7 in criminal justice, law enforcement, emergency medical care, and social services like housing and food stamps,” the piece said. Making recovery services available to everyone also “translates to billions of dollars that we could be spending on things that matter: schools, safer neighborhoods, our national parks, and disaster relief.”

And while funding is crucial, what’s even more important is that the government does more than simply recognize that addiction exists. Actions speak louder than words, yes, but when it comes to the government, all of its words may as well be silence.

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Paul Fuhr lives in Columbus, Ohio with his family and two cats, Vesper and Dr. No. He's written for AfterParty MagazineThe Literary Review and The Live Oak Review, among others. He's also the host of "Drop the Needle," a podcast about music and addiction recovery. More at paulfuhr.com. You can also find Paul on Linkedin and Twitter.

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