Just returned from Denver after speaking at the National Conference on Addiction Disorders (the irony of choice of location, by the way, is not lost on me either) and I came across but another in a long line of reports about federal government dysfunction.
Huffington Post writer Michael McAuliff reports:
The threat of Zika — and Congress’ inability to respond to it — is shining new light on how little official Washington really cares about the nation’s opioid crisis.
Lawmakers went on vacation in July without passing even part of the $1.9 billion in emergency Zika funding that the White House sought in February. So the administration of President Barack Obama has had to make do on its own.
It started by shifting $589 million away from efforts to keep Ebola contained. And last week, the administration rifled the drawers of the Department of Health and Human Services, shifting another $81 million to keep money flowing to time-sensitive Zika vaccine development.
That’s where the official response to the opioid epidemic comes in. Some of that cash, $4.1 million, comes from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which is at the forefront of dealing with addiction.
Just before Congress went on break, it did pass legislation to address the overdose crisis, in the form of a bill called the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act
(CARA). It was bipartisan and accompanied by a slew of press releases. The problem with CARA is that it was not accompanied by funding.
However, it is once again made all too painfully clear how much ― or little ― lawmakers and the administration actually value the addiction treatment efforts they’ve been touting, especially with passage of CARA.
As a matter of great public health concern, the addiction epidemic is the top cause of injury-related death in the United States.
“We know that. It’s been called a health care crisis, it’s an epidemic. It meets all the criteria for that from the standpoint [of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention].”
Democrats have demanded an abrupt end to Congress’ self-imposed 7-week “vacation” and pass funding for Zika efforts and other public health concerns which themselves do not know of Labor Day and back to school.
“I strongly urge Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan to call Congress back into session to finally provide an adequate response to both the Zika virus and the opioid epidemic,” Shaheen said in a statement.
Both McConnell and Ryan have ignored such requests.