President Obama Responds to Opioid Crisis

President Obama Responds to Opioid Crisis

The President’s 2017 landmark budget makes history as the largest outlay aimed at combating the drug epidemic


In his 2016 State of the Union address President Obama underscored the devastating toll of the opioid crisis facing our country. Contemplating on the measures that need to be undertaken by the federal government to conquer this epidemic, President Obama said, “I hope we can work together this year on some bipartisan priorities like… helping people who are battling prescription drug abuse and heroin abuse. So, who knows, we might surprise the cynics again.”

The 2017 budget will allocate $1.1 billion in new funding to curb the prescription opioid abuse and heroin use epidemic.

With this significant stance towards combating the opioid epidemic and his intention to subsidize recovery initiatives, President Obama is doing something no other President in the history of the Oval Office has pursued.  The plan will be overseen and managed under the supervision of Michael Botticelli, the Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), and Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), the watershed shift in budgetary response is an indication that a more balanced approach of prevention and treatment are being sought due to the ineffectiveness of the current paradigm.  

Formally presented to the U.S. Congress on February 9th, 2016, the 2017 Budget includes a stipulation that contains $15.8 billion in federal funds earmarked for lowering drug use in the United States through prevention and treatment programs.

This is a substantial increase of almost $1.1 billion over 2016 figures with the lionshare of funds be directed into the areas of treatment and prevention. The recovery budget will be administered to the individual states based on two premises: the degree and damage of the drug problem, with a special emphasis on opioid and heroin related cases, and continual updates and feedback by the states explaining how the money will be deployed to treatment plans that favor  evidence-based options, especially with regards to medication-assisted treatment (MAT).  Coupled with supply reduction funding, the total estimates com in at a whopping figure of $31.1 billion dollars necessary to fight this war on drugs.

Director of White House Drug Policy Michael Botticelli remarked that the budget commands the most significant contribution in history to preventing and fighting the scourge of drug addiction.  He added,  “By funding public health and public safety efforts at near-identical levels, this budget demonstrates the Obama Administration’s ongoing commitment to a balanced approach to drug policy. The Budget recognizes how important it is to expand access to prevention, treatment, and recovery support services so we can prevent youth substance use, provide treatment to those in need, and sustain long-term recovery.”

The elephant in the room and million dollar question now posing itself is if Congress will cooperate in these endeavors.  This is certainly not an issue that has overwhelming majority from both dominant political parties.  For Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz, the crux of drug policy rests on building a divide on the border between the United States and Mexico to disrupt the flow of drugs flooding the country.  

Building a wall will do nothing long-term to address the real problems at the heart of the drug crisis facing by this country.  The pervasive and irresponsible misuse of prescription painkillers has been front a center of this discussion for quite some time with supposed crackdown by several pill mills doing little in the way to dent the real problem. The irony behind these law enforcement efforts intending to clamp down and ratchet up efforts on combating the drug trade and resulting in little if any significant impact in the long run is disconcerting to say the least.  Clearly a new strategy must be enacted to readily address the underlying issues of an effective and comprehensive drug policy that makes real strides for justice.  The real problem is contained in the economic structure of the system and the financial incentive behind the relationships of doctors and prescription drug manufacturers, and until that conflict of interest relationship is examined in earnest there will be little if any real progress.  

The life-altering ramifications of the opioid epidemic must be faced through more resources being funneled into treatment and prevention.  Americans stuck in the vice like grip of drug abuse need a multi-pronged all encompassing treatment approach, and education needs to be the hallmark of the program cautioning against the perils of drug addiction.  The groundwork laid out by the new budget set forth by Obama is a step in the right direction.  


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