Now that CARA has passed in the Senate, what’s next? CARA, of course, is the Comprehensive Addictions and Recovery Act, Senate bill 524, the first stand alone bill to pass the Senate in years. This bill, covering drug rehabilitation treatment, met sound approval from both Democrats and Republicans. It’s shocking that, in a year when the political arena more closely resembles a three-ring circus, both parties cooperated to pass CARA by a rousing majority of 94 to 1.
It’s notable to mention that Senate Democrats wanted to append $600 million in emergency funding to the bill’s passage, but most Republicans voted against the amendment. The Republicans are asking that the $400 million remaining from 2015’s omnibus spending bill should first be utilized before additional funds are appropriated.
There is currently companion legislation in the House of Representatives (H.R. 953), though no vote has taken place yet. The bill has more than 100 house co-sponsors, but is currently being reviewed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and must make it through an additional committee review before it is put forth for consideration to the whole House.
Exciting Progress for Drug Rehabilitation Treatment
The National Council for Behavioral Health applauds the Senate’s passage of CARA, identifying the opiate drug crisis as a greater health risk than the Ebola virus. “It’s physically and emotionally crippling, wrecks families, jobs and local economies, and it takes millions of lives,” says Linda Rosenberg, CEO of the National Council. This bill authorizes funding to drug rehabilitation treatment services, treatment alternatives rather than incarceration for persons with addictions, programs to promote the use of naloxone to prevent overdoses, and alternative prescribing guidelines.
This pace of progress has been exciting for those who provide drug rehabilitation treatment. It seemed like big news when debate on CARA reached the floor of the Senate in February. Now, just a month later, it has passed the Senate. The hope is for quick passage of its identical version in the House. It’s promising that the bill was introduced in identical versions to both the House and the Senate. Supporters hope it can promote its rapid passage, and get it in front of the President for a signature, who no one doubts will sign it into law.
Drug Rehabilitation Treatment and Taking the Next Step
Whether you work at a drug rehabilitation treatment program or if you’re a client, you can’t help but wonder about the next step. Substance abuse treatment professionals are ready to hit the floor running in order to implement CARA’s full promise.
The disbursement of drug education and prevention money will no longer depend upon Republicans or Democrats. The bill authorizes the White House’s Office of Drug Control Policy to allocate funds for prevention in the schools. We live in a time when teens report that on their very first day of school they are offered drugs. With drug rehabilitation treatment programs expanding their prevention education in communities across the nation, it can’t be too soon and it will include both middle schools and high schools.
The availability of naloxone will also expand, making it possible to turn an overdose into a recovery. People do relapse, it’s simply a part of many individual’s journey to recovery, but we are lucky there is a drug on hand that can offer them a chance to survive, and fight another day.
Specific Help for Opiate Drug Addiction
Passage of the bill means recognition that opiate drug addiction is a serious illness to be reckoned with, and not just a shameful set of negative behaviors that should be punished by incarceration. Drug rehabilitation treatment modalities will incorporate the biological symptoms of addiction and withdrawal, the psychosocial components that often drag a person down the road to addiction, and expand availability of the tools—including medication-assisted treatment options—that can help a person get their life back on track. For the first time in a decade—since the opiate drug crisis grew to its current immense proportions with approximately 1.5 million Americans in need of help for heroin or prescription drug addiction—people’s hearts are filling with the hope that there may be a chance to contain this deadly epidemic.
Besides CARA, we will also be watching eagerly for news of the TREAT Act—the Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment Act. It will expand the availability of buprenorphine or Suboxone treatment by eliminating the 30-patient cap for a doctor in their first year of offering buprenorphine treatment. It will also allow a doctor to request that the 100-patient-per-doctor cap be removed beyond the first year, and it will add nurse practitioners and physician assistants to the pool of professionals who can provide opiate drug rehabilitation treatment.
There is yet another bill on the horizon, the Co-Prescribing Saves Lives Act, which will permit and even encourage a physician who writes a prescription for opiates to write a simultaneous prescription for naloxone. That means anyone receiving an opiate drug prescription will receive a naloxone prescription. It will put naloxone in the medicine cabinets of school nurses, camp counselors, and coaches everywhere.
The last bill that is winding its way through the legislative process is another one sponsored from both sides of the political aisle. The Mental Health Reform Act of 2016 will not only increase options for drug rehabilitation treatment but will also recognize the need to treat co-occurring disorders. Considering that almost half of all addicted Americans suffer from an emotional disorder, let’s hope that this bill works more effectively than its predecessors to provide access to both treatment and funding.
For those in need of drug rehabilitation treatment, let them be inspired by the hope this new legislation provides. If you are in need of opiate drug rehabilitation treatment, pick up the phone and call for more information, because now is the time.