The Biden Administration has revealed a first-year plan to combat the nation’s growing drug addiction crisis by focusing on seven distinct priorities as well as the inequality of access to treatment. The news is particularly timely considering the CDC’s (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) latest numbers show that more than 87,000 Americans died of drug overdoses over the 12-month period that ended in September.
Experts say the pandemic has made drug addictions much worse, as the biggest spike in overdose deaths took place in April and May of 2020 when the U.S. had just begun to go into quarantine and feel the full effects of COVID-19’s spread, including isolation and job loss. Many treatment programs and rehab facilities also closed at the beginning of the pandemic, making it harder for people to find professional help and medication.
The Biden Administration’s 7 priorities include:
- Expanding access to evidence-based treatment
- Advancing racial equity in their approach to drug policy
- Enhancing evidence-based harm reduction efforts
- Supporting evidence-based prevention efforts to reduce youth substance use
- Reducing the supply of illicit substances
- Advancing recovery-ready workplaces and expanding the addiction workforce
- Expanding access to recovery support services
It’s well known that drug and alcohol addiction are closely intertwined with mental health. In addition, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will use $1.65 billion to put towards Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant funding, as well as $825 million for the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant funding. This money will go to states and territories to focus on both addiction and mental disorders.
“Focusing on both mental and substance use disorders—challenges that pre-date the COVID-19 pandemic but that have worsened over the past year—will be a crucial part of SAMHSA’s approach to helping the nation move forward,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Tom Coderre.
Who is the Drug Addiction Crisis Impacting?
One main reason why the Biden Administration hopes to focus on the inequality of treatment access is that not all people are equally at risk of developing drug addictions. The current opioid epidemic ravaging our country is disproportionately affecting Black Americans and particularly Black men. Black and Latino communities have also been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis, which could directly impact their physical and mental health.
By paving the way for accessible treatment and investing in prevention, the administration hopes to destigmatize addiction and get vulnerable people the help they need. These efforts may also help to address the long history of Black people’s relationship with the criminal justice system and substance use.
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