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Sober Nation

Putting Recovery On The Map

08-10-17 | By

An Open Letter to President Trump – The Opioid Issue

open letter to trump about addictionDear Mr. President,

Do you personally know anyone that has struggled with addiction? Have you sat in your gold-plated palace, nights on end sobbing and cursing the name of Heroin as something that took the life of a loved one?

I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but morgues are running out of room with bodies that shouldn’t be there. Opioid overdose death rates have reached a new record high. The American Journal of Preventative Medicine released another report that many of these deaths have been under-reported, underestimating the magnitude of this crisis.

Your panel of experts examining the opioid crisis has urged you to declare a national public health emergency, and on Tuesday you held a major briefing at your lavish golf club in New Jersey. While you were busy announcing a statement pushing for more prosecution and law enforcement around this, I was walking to a 12-step meeting in the sweltering heat of Florida and was asked for help by a young man who seemed to be high on heroin. He told me he had been homeless on the streets for the past couple of weeks and had no money or insurance to get into a detox.

I called a friend and we tried to get him over to the state-ran detox, but even THAT was full and turned him away due a high volume waiting list. Wish no insurance, funds, or state help, resources are scarcely limited, and I don’t think throwing him in jail would do much either. From someone who has no political experience but has plenty of experience on this issue I beg of you to rethink this decision.

What declaring an emergency would do

People are dying left and rightUsually public health emergencies are declared for a natural disaster, and in the eyes of someone who has known scores of people who have lost loved ones, this is a national tragedy.

Keith Humphrey, an addiction specialist that worked in the Office of National Drug Control Policy stated that:

First, States that are designated as disaster zones will have access to money in the federal “Disaster Relief Fund” just like they could if a tornado or a major hurricane had hit. States and cities would be able to request declarations from the White House, which would enable them to use federal funds for drug treatment and overdose-reversal medication. ”

“Second, declaring an emergency can allow for temporary waivers of many rules regarding federal programs. Currently, Medicaid rates don’t cut it at drug treatment centers in large capacities of 16 beds or more. In an emergency, this could be waived and many more people could be getting help than the rate they are now. With Attorney General Jeff Sessions wanting to prolong prison sentences for prosecutors in drug cases, this could emergency could counter-act his proposal and roll back a pre-Trump policy.”

As a substantial investment and with the national debt getting deeper and deeper, some political lawmakers may say we can’t afford to do this, but sir, we can’t afford not to do this. Almost everyday on my news feed, I see another “fly high” status that accompanies funeral announcements of a life lost too soon, and my heart breaks a little bit more. As someone who has been in the throws of their own addiction, and have lost loved ones to this disease – throwing someone in jail is not the answer.

Lets talk about jail for a second

Isn’t our justice system a little heavily overpopulated? Talk about another issue in itself! Inmates are likely to find a drug trade as active as the one outside jail walls.

The National Center on Addiction and Substance abuse at Columbia University found that only 11% of inmates with substance abuse disorders received treatment at federal and state prisons or local jails. The best that most can hope for is occasional mutual support or peer counseling meetings. Half of inmates with addiction histories relapse within a month of release. So, Mr. Trump, what exactly did you have in mind with stricter law enforcement?

Opioid deaths have risen and are not going anywhere anytime soon. If something isn’t done, this growing and morbid issue could kill nearly half a million in the next decade. 

Just months after Nashville’s Mayor, Megan Barry goes back to work after her son, Max died of an apparent overdose, and Ohio Lt. Governor’s Mary Taylor opened up about how her two sons that have dealt with addiction, the statement that you uttered on Tuesday was that, “the best way to prevent drug addiction and overdose is to prevent people from abusing drugs in the first place. If they don’t start, they won’t have a problem. If they do start, it’s awfully tough to get off.”

Sure, it’s tough to get off drugs, and nobody can argue that they’re bad, but with the magnitude of this epidemic, this has got to be something more than an elementary school D.A.R.E. curriculum.

Mr. Trump, I hope you never have to go through the despairing and horrific tragedies of losing someone to an overdose, but on the epochs of holding a briefing on this sobering issue, as days go by, we are losing more life to this silent killer. Please do something.

Sincerely,

Tori

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