Lee Zeldin’s Drug Crisis: Billions, or Millions ?

Regarding the drug epidemic, the  CDC (Center for Disease Control) has pointed out 2 trends: A 15-year increase in overdose deaths involving prescription opioid pain relievers and a recent surge in illicit opioid overdose deaths, driven largely by heroin. Prescription drug abuse, according to the CDC accounts for one death every 19 minutes in the United States.

Within New York State, Suffolk County led all counties in heroin overdoses last year. Contrary to what you might expect, drug overdose deaths affect primarily young white males between 20-35 years of age. African Americans and Latinos are less frequently affected.

Here are some sobering remarks from Jeffrey Reynolds, president and CEO of the Family and Children’s Association in Mineola. He said the crisis shows no signs of abating. “Carfentanil has not yet appeared here; we’ll know when it arrives because we will immediately see more fatalities. I say ‘yet’ because 15 years ago we warned about the burgeoning prescription pill crisis and it happened. Ten years ago we warned of the impending heroin crisis and it happened. Four years ago, we warned about the emergence of fentanyl after it appeared in several other regions; low and behold, that drug is now killing more Long Islanders than heroin.” He continued: “There are barriers to treatment including insurance company discrimination… There aren’t nearly enough supports for people in early recovery, but then we blame them for a relapse rate that approaches 75 percent. We are watching the problem worsen and the death toll climb, but we haven’t taken the bold or sustained action necessary to turn the tide. That’s why, unless we do something differently, 2017 promises to be a whole lot worse.”

After an East Hampton teen overdosed recently at a house party, the community has vowed to come together to seek solutions. According to the Patch, Congressman Zeldin took part in a community roundtable hosted by Vida Abundante in East Hampton.  Zeldin discussed “his work in Congress to combat heroin and opioid abuse, including his support of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, or CARA, which, he said, would provide “billions to combat the heroin and opioid epidemic” as also stated in a 2016 press release.

Interestingly, President Obama signed the bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) into law on July 22, 2016.  CARA is a sweeping bill that came together over the course of several years with input from hundreds of addiction advocates. Its provisions address the full continuum of care from primary prevention to recovery support, including significant changes to expand access to addiction treatment services and overdose reversal medications. It also includes criminal justice and law enforcement provisions.

This bill, however, does not provide automatic federal funding. Republican leadership has maintained that funding must be appropriated through regular order. They have repeatedly pledged to fund the programs authorized in CARA. Advocates are urging Congress to deliver on this promise. As recently as March 2017 families are still lobbying congress for funding!

So what about those 8.3 billions of dollars promised by Zeldin? About 37 Million was the amount for 2016. In September 2016, a spokeswoman for the Office of Management and Budget echoed Capitol Hill Democrats’ understanding of the bill. She said $7 million would be available through Dec. 9, 2016.   Sounds like millions, not billions.

In addition, our current government is still trying to sabotage Obamacare and with it Medicaid expansion. Medicaid is critical for professional substance abuse therapy and counseling for drug addiction!

Are Republicans like Zeldin involved in a cynical ploy to mislead the families of the victims? Has CARA become a political football? One staffer writes: “Every single Democrat voted for CARA, so you’d think they [Republicans] would support quick implementation of the law rather than mocking attempts to do so,” …“It shows they care more about politics than actually helping people suffering from addiction.”

Lee Zeldin was NOT one of 23 representatives who recently signed a letter to Pres. Trump requesting full funding for CARA.

I note that Lee Zeldin has been our representative since 2014 and the drug epidemic has gotten much worse under his watch. We need more than words. We need actions.

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About D. Posnett MD

Emeritus Prof. of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College
This entry was posted in ACA, AHCA, American Health Care Act, Health Care, Medicaid, Uncategorized, Zeldin. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Lee Zeldin’s Drug Crisis: Billions, or Millions ?

  1. Pingback: Zeldin on Opiods | Resist and Replace

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