Legislative Corner – May 24, 2010

By Andrew Kessler, Federal Policy Liaison

The Office of National Drug Control Policy released their National Drug Control Strategy this month, announcing the goals and objectives of the Obama administration.  Emphasizing prevention, treatment, and community settings, the 127-page document includes several points that could have an impact on substance abuse professionals.

If there is one overarching theme to the strategy, it is that substance abuse treatment and prevention need to be absorbed into “mainstream” health care.  With the passage of health care reform and the Wellstone-Domenici Parity Act, the ONDCP sees an opportunity for substance abuse to be elevated to the status of other chronic diseases in the eyes of the health care system and the public.

There is a heavy emphasis on prevention in the first chapter of the strategy. There is a call for the development of prevention-prepared communities, with grants targeting common risk factors that cause a range of problems in youth.  States would play a larger role in helping communities prepare to implement prevention initiatives.  Our prevention boards could be well-situated to take advantage of such a strategy.  There is also an emphasis on prevention in the southwest, along the Mexican border.  Our boards in California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas should be aware of this.  ONDCP will establish a federal working group of state, tribal, and other entities to maximize resources in an effort to improve communication and collaboration.

Chapter three is the section of the report that addresses the integration of substance abuse treatment into mainstream health care.  The logic is that in an integrated system, care for addiction is co-located with other important services, such as mental health care and disease management.  It also grants access to other health professionals, such as nurses and physicians.  This integration can be achieved through expanding addiction services in community health centers.   This section of the report also calls for expanded substance abuse treatment within the Indian Health Service.   The strategy also supports the development of new medications for the treatment of addiction.  

Criminal justice also plays a role in the strategy.  There is a call to expand re-entry support services through the Second Chance Act.  Also, there is a need to improve treatment for those with needs in the juvenile justice system.  Specifically, there is a need for culturally competent screening and treatment strategies.

Chapter seven promotes the use of science to advance our understanding of addiction, treatment, and recovery.  Here, IC&RC is ahead of the curve, as we are well into discussions with NIDA in an effort to better disseminate science into practice amongst our professionals.  We have met with high-ranking officials at NIDA on multiple occasions and hope to soon involve NIDA scientists and staff in the promotion of IC&RC materials.

In summary, the national strategy will present both opportunities and challenges to IC&RC members and certificants.  Thanks to our recent advocacy efforts, as well as our fundamental commitment to evidence-based practices, we are well-positioned to make the most of this new approach.

The entire report can be found at http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/.

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