It has been nearly 20 years since the beginning of the American opioid epidemic, the greatest public health crisis of modern times. With the continued overdose death rates now at an all-time high, and scores of people being denied access to substance use disorder treatment, it may be time to stop and ask some vital, albeit hard, questions to answer. And at the top of the list is: What have we learned?”
Of course, that question could be succinctly answered in a number of ways, for instance: we have learned that our reliance on prescription opioid painkillers is alarming, unparalleled in any other country. We have learned that making it harder to acquire prescription opioids has the unintended effect of fueling a demand for heroin, a drug that is often stronger and cheaper than prescription opioids. Perhaps the most import knowledge gained by battling an epidemic for two decades, something that addiction professionals have been arguing for since time immemorial, is the fact that we cannot arrest our way out of the opioid epidemic—treatment is the answer.
Providing Access to Addiction Treatment
Previously we have written about the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), a bill that was passed which aims to, among other things, provide access to addiction treatment to the millions of Americans who need it. The bill, at the end of the day, is a perfect example of what can be achieved when lawmakers put their differences aside for the good of the country. However, there are many experts who believe that the bill lacks adequate funding for all the programs the legislation calls for, leading to a letter written to Congress and Senate by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). The letter aims to persuade the same lawmakers who passed the bill to fully fund CARA. Hopefully, action will be taken to ensure that happens.
CARA, adequate funding or not, is still a step in the right direction, a move that will surely aid some people in receiving the help they need. There is a new bill that was approved in the U.S. House of Representatives this week, known as the 21st Century Cures Act. The bill will likely be approved in the Senate as well, according to USA Today. While the bill is not without criticism, due to some glaring signs of impropriety, the legislation would provide $1 billion in new funding over the next two years for opioid addiction prevention and treatment.
With 2017 just around the corner, millions of Americans are hoping to reap the benefits of both CARA and the Cures Act, but in the meantime, opioid addicts continue the fight for access to treatment. And in some cases, both lawmakers and law enforcement have come up with some novel ideas for providing treatment, and just like addiction recovery, it all starts with surrender.
PAARI: “Angel Program”
As lawmakers continue to argue over how to fund addiction treatment, in some parts of the country local law enforcement agencies have resorted to a novel idea: Encourage opioid addicts to come to the police station and surrender their narcotics without fear of punishment, in turn the police will link the addicted individuals with addiction treatment services.
In 2015, officials in Gloucester Massachusetts created the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI), otherwise known as the “Angel Program.” The initiative was so successful that it has spread throughout the country, with 160 police-based programs nationwide, and more to follow. PAARI has released its first annual report, with some promising results:
- More than 400 Gloucester individuals have been helped into treatment by the Police Department
- Nationwide, thousands more have been helped by other Police Departments.
- PAARI communities have seen a 25 percent reduction in crimes associated with addiction.
- More than 5,000 doses of nasal naloxone have been distributed.
- PAARI can be found in more than 20 states, working hand in hand with more than 300 treatment centers.
Working with Young Adult Men
Here at PACE, we have a multi-pronged approach to our men’s addiction treatment program and philosophy because we understand that our clients are complex beings. Having a place where men can delve into their underlying issues, which have caused them to resort to substance use and self-defeating behaviors, is the core philosophy of PACE.