President Obama: Those Devastated by Opioid Epidemic 'Cannot Wait Any Longer'

By Kelly Burch 12/07/16

The president penned an editorial voicing his support for the 21st Century Cures Act and more funding for addiction treatment.

President Obama: Those Devastated by Opioid Epidemic 'Cannot Wait Any Longer'

In an editorial that appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune, President Barack Obama talked about the opiate epidemic affecting the country and called for the passage of the 21st Century Cures bill this week.

“I remain committed to addressing the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic, a crisis that is taking a devastating toll on far too many families. I've seen it in the faces of families I've met who've lost loved ones, and the countless letters I've received from Americans who are trying to find treatment,” the president wrote.

“In addition to funding the fight against the opioid epidemic, this bill can improve our nation's long-term health with its support of Joe Biden's Cancer Moonshot, funding for important research through our BRAIN and Precision Medicine Initiatives, and important mental health reforms.”

The 21st Century Cures bill, which passed the House last week and the Senate this week, will provide $1 billion for fighting opiate addiction. However, some have said that the bill’s positive impacts are outweighed by more lax regulations that serve the pharmaceutical industry.

In his editorial, however, Obama framed the Cures bill as the next step in improving access to addiction treatment.

“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, all health care plans sold in the Marketplace have to cover treatment. We've also made it easier for health care providers to treat more patients with opioid addiction, made sure more providers are trained in appropriate opioid prescribing practices, expanded community health centers' capacity to provide treatment, and supported efforts to get the overdose reversal drug — naloxone — into the hands of first responders,” he said. “We have empowered federal agencies to provide local communities the support they need, doing what we can to help where it is needed most.”

Obama pointed out that opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 1999, claiming 78 Americans lives every day.

“From Ohio and New Hampshire to New Mexico and West Virginia, the disease of addiction is affecting communities big and small, urban and rural; it doesn't discriminate. Instead, it strains families as well as the capacity of law enforcement and our health care systems in ways that hurt all of us,” he wrote.

The Cures act, he said, has taken into consideration voices from the addiction and recovery communities.

“And we have made sure everyone has a seat at the table where the solutions are being developed, holding roundtables and town halls with law enforcement, health professionals, family members, individuals in recovery and local leaders,” Obama wrote.

“Those on the front lines of this fight have made it clear they need more resources … Those devastated by the heroin and prescription opioid epidemic cannot wait any longer. They need help now, and we need to help turn the tide of this epidemic,” he said. “We all know someone who has been affected by these diseases and disorders. The time to act is now.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.