New Heroin Response Strategy Getting Millions in Funding
Author: Justin Mckibben
Heroin addiction has struck many communities with rot and ruin, with countless families being torn apart by the ravages of the drug that is creating copious overdose deaths across the country. Heroin has slipped its way into the veins of America, and it is poisoning the prosperity of the American people day by day with every pull and push of the proverbial syringe plunger.
When we look at the mounting death toll, the rise in the rate of prescription opiate abuse leading to heroin addiction, and the various coping strategies states across the nation have used in attempts to meet the devastation head-on it should seem obvious that there should be more action taken.
Now in response to the up-rise of heroin addiction all over America, the White House is making another huge move to change the way we are addressing the epidemic, planning to pair law enforcement with public health analysts to treat drug users instead of putting them in our over-packed prison systems.
Treating addicts, not jailing them, could be the new horizon the world has been waiting for.
The Heroin Response Strategy
This week government officials announced the Heroin Response Strategy, with funds from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) being collected with aims to attack heroin addiction beginning all along the Eastern seaboard.
So what is the Heroin Response Strategy?
Apparently 2 key components of the new plan thus far are:
- Have 15 drug intelligence officers and 15 health policy officials assigned tocollect data on overdoses and other trends in heroin trafficking.
- Training first responders to reverse overdose by naloxone injection
And for this new plan the White House intends to spend some big money. According to director of ONDCP Michael Botticelli there is $2.5 million that will initially be used to target “High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas.” This includes states that have experienced the most damage from heroin addiction, including:
- New England
- New York
- New Jersey
- Washington, D.C.
The Heroin Response Strategy is just a small portion of the $25.1 billion the U.S. government is planning to spend fighting drug use, and also intends to provide aid to other states with high rates of heroin-related deaths, which these days could be any number of states in the nation.
Heroin Addiction in America
The Heroin Response Strategy isn’t stopping at the heroin problem either, because of course these officials have noticed the trend of prescription drug abuse and its relationship to heroin abuse. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- In the past decade, heroin use has doubled among people aged 18 to 25
- 45% of current heroin users in the U.S. are also addicted to prescription painkillers
- Nearly halfof heroin addicts were initially addicted to prescription medication
As the increase in opiate-based painkiller abuse has fed into the heroin outbreak, the Heroin Response Strategy intends to leave no stone unturned in this case, and aims to address prescription opiate abuse and addiction as well.
Reforming to Recovery
Perhaps the biggest shift we have been noticing lately is the Obama administration and several state officials across the nation are actually encouraging local law enforcement to increase access to treatment for addicts instead of pushing for harsh penalties and pursuing legal punishment.
Sending addicts to prison by the busload seems to have done little good in the effort to combat the increase in addiction, and it has only continued to feed into the cycle of poverty and drug abuse while straining the prison system and the economy. According to the National Institute of Justice, 76.9% of drug offenders are bound to be rearrested, so the idea is with more access to addiction treatment recidivism rates will drop in a drastic way.
It’s about time the way of the world didn’t see addiction through the eyes of stigma, and that we worked toward saving lives with rehabilitation instead of smothering the potential to get better with time served and an arrest rap-sheet.
This kind of reform of criminal justice tactics has long been advocated by many who have seen the destruction that the war on drugs has caused both addicts and their families. Reforming to programs of recovery sends a much more empowering message to the people who are struggling than threats of imprisonment. Botticelli said in a recent statement,
“This Administration will continue to expand community-based efforts to prevent drug use, pursue ‘smart on crime’ approaches to drug enforcement, increase access to treatment, work to reduce overdose deaths, and support the millions of Americans in recovery,”
There are still some critics who insist this new effort is too little too late, because the heroin epidemic has far surpassed this kind of action. Republican Mayor Ted Gatsas of Manchester, N.H., said the new program would not even be enough to confront the heroin deaths in his city, which numbered 50 in the first half of the year, and claims in order to make a real difference more funding needs to be applied to helping insure addicts get treatment.
So while some are celebrating this new initiative, others are still concerned that it is simply not going to be enough. Either way you look at it, the budget to fight back heroin addiction is mounting in attempts to match the issue itself, but can the American pocketbook catch up to the corrosion being caused?
One way or the other, seeing that we are taking notice and acknowledging the heroin epidemic for what it is, we as a nation are given new strength to fight for the sick and suffering people in every community.
The heroin epidemic is very real, and thus far it has been very costly to American life in more ways than one. Beyond the price of prisons, treatment and law enforcement, the price of life has been immeasurable. But there is always hope, and people willing to help make a change.
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