Inside Obama And Gloucester Police Chief Campanello's Reactions To CARA

By John Lavitt 07/18/16

Though CARA authorizes almost $900 million over five years for prevention, treatment, and law enforcement measures, recovery advocates have major concerns with the bill.

Inside Obama And Gloucester Police Chief Campanello's Reactions To CARA

Yes, the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act of 2016 (CARA) passed in both the House and the Senate with impressive bipartisan majorities. Yes, many media outlets and treatment professionals are celebrating the passage of a bill to address the nationwide opioid epidemic. Yes, President Obama has communicated through aides that he definitely will sign the legislation, making CARA the law of the land. Yet, despite all of these positive affirmations, why is the administration’s response to CARA lukewarm at best? Why are respected recovery advocates on the front lines of the battle like Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello publicly expressing disappointment? 

The answer to both questions is a lack of funding. Although CARA authorizes almost $900 million over five years for prevention, treatment, and law enforcement measures, the funding is not readily available and still needs to be specified in terms of the sources. CARA fails to provide the immediate funding that President Obama requested through the recent initiatives presented by Drug Czar Michael Botticelli and Secretary Sylvia Burwell of Health and Human Services. Moreover, it falls far short of the $1.1 billion that the Obama administration believes is needed to even begin making a dent in the opioid epidemic.

At this point in time, with 78 Americans dying every day from prescription opioid and heroin overdoses and only 12% of people with a dependency problem able to access effective treatment, the problem is extreme and the bodies are piling up. It is not surprising that the White House responded to the passing of CARA with the following statement emailed privately to media outlets by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy:

“…while the legislation highlights the important issue of the opioid and heroin epidemic, it falls far short of the real resources required to help those Americans seeking treatment get the care that they need. Congressional Republicans have not done their jobs—the bill does not provide the funding this public health crisis demands.

While the President will sign this bill once it reaches his desk because some action is better than none, he will continue fighting to turn the tide of the opioid epidemic and get the resources needed to save lives. This epidemic … requires funding so that every American with an opioid disorder who wants treatment, can get that treatment.”

President Obama is not alone in his negative response to the passing of CARA. As the co-head of the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative and the voice of a nationwide coalition of over 140 police departments that are committed to treating addiction like a disease and not a crime, Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello released a statement, clearly declaring that:

“To pass this legislation without the funding to support it is a hollow victory for those working to save lives. Without funding for state programs, access to treatment will continue to be a barrier to recovery. With additional funding of over $1 billion, we could turn this epidemic around and curb the mounting death toll.”

The voices of President Obama in the Oval Office and Police Chief Leonard Campanello on the front lines of the opioid epidemic need to be heard. They are backed by a letter of dissent signed by 37 Senators that was sent to House majority leader Mitch McConnell as well as a letter calling for immediate further action by the FED UP! Coalition. The hollow congratulatory speeches by other congressmen and their hearty pats on the back will not save lives. All the political posturing in the world cannot help stop a single addict from shooting up. If real funding for widespread treatment is not made available sooner rather than later, the death toll will continue to mount as America’s worst ever drug abuse epidemic burns out of control.

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.