New Year, Fresh Priorities: National Addiction Treatment Goals for 2017

New Year, Fresh Priorities: National Addiction Treatment Goals for 2017

What’s on your list of New Year’s resolutions? As a country, there’s no shortage of things we can change or improve upon; the way we’ve handled the opioid abuse crisis is no exception. Here are a few resolutions the United States should adopt in order to reverse the tide of deadly opioid abuse and secure a healthy, productive year for us all.

Ensuring access to quality healthcare for everyone who needs it should be at the top of our country’s New Year resolution list. Being able to access addiction treatment services, especially at intensive outpatient and residential treatment centers, is literally a matter of life or death for people struggling with addiction. If you know you have a problem with drug abuse and you’re willing to get help, you should be able to access the care you need, not wait months for a bed, if you are allowed care at all.

Maintaining the Medicare expansion initiated under the Affordable Care Act will also go a long way toward keeping drug treatment services accessible to all. In 2014, a quarter of all money spent on mental health services and 20% of all money spent on addiction treatment services was paid through Medicaid. If the federal program’s expansion is reversed through a repeal of the Affordable Care Act or simply by cutting the program, millions of Americans fighting an addiction or mental health diagnosis will be without health care when they need it the most.

In 2017, we must continue to pursue ground-breaking research into prescription opioid alternatives and best practices for prescribing these and other high-risk drugs. This means not only embracing alternative treatments we know to be effective, including yoga and meditation, but also being unafraid to pioneer new clinical research into the benefits of alternative substances like marijuana and ecstasy for treating depression, anxiety, and chronic pain.

Eliminating social stigmas against people who struggle with an addiction or mental health condition is perhaps the most important resolution we can make in the new year. The limited availability of addiction treatment resources, the shame associated with mental health issues, and the thousands of preventable overdose-related deaths are all tied up in the public misconception of addiction as a personal failing. Continued funding for public awareness campaigns like New York City’s ‘Today I Thrive’ initiative must be secured as a crucial step toward ending the shame associated with addiction and mental health issues.

Entering a new year means learning from your successes and mistakes over the last twelve months to come out stronger for the year to come. Protecting access to affordable, quality health care for people struggling with an addiction, correcting social stigmas and aggressively pursuing better treatment options that don’t carry the risk of addiction are crucial lessons we can learn from the opioid epidemic. Let’s make 2017 a year in which health care is a real priority and rebuilding our families more than a dream.

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