When President Obama sat down to talk to those persons fighting the country’s war on heroin and opiates on Tuesday, it was with the aim of understanding the nature of the epidemic and assuring those in attendance of the government’s determination to curb addiction.
Bringing to light the number of lives lost, the cost to the different communities and how productivity had been impacted all over the country, Obama strongly emphasized the important position addiction occupied in the conscious of the government.
Addressing opiate abuse at the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit, the President acknowledged the fact that the problem had grown exponentially during his two terms in office. The president spent over two hours of his time at the gathering of medical professionals, law enforcement officers and treatment facilitators interacting with recovering addicts and medical professionals, these including Doctor Sanjay Gupta who was the moderator.
While there was a sense of bleakness in the direction of the discussions, the gathering wasn’t without hope, with voices such as Justin Riley and Crystal Oertle painting a picture of the lives that could be saved through the funding of comprehensive recovery programs.
The difficulties that addicts face integrating back into society after starting their journey to recovery were also touched upon, Crystal Oertle emphasizing the stigma recovering addicts encountered on a regular basis.
The 35-year-old mother and recovering addict told the President that even at the present, with her life on the path to a bright future, she always felt judged and invalidated by those around because of her previous struggle with drug abuse.
Crucial panelists in the discussions included Doctor Leana Wen, the Baltimore City Health Commissioner, who recounted stories of all the negative situations she had observed and heard about from the law enforcement and medical communities about their approach to handling drug abusers.
She was especially grieved by the many drug addicts she had encountered and who she simply couldn’t care for because of a lack of resources, this feeling of helplessness leaving her less than pleased with the state of the medical field in the country.
It is probably because of the ostensible surges in the heroin abuse that the government has begun taken decisive steps to reverse addiction trends, Congress’ decision to pass a bipartisan budget agreement that assigned $400 million to the issue of opiate abuse last December justifying President Obama’s claims that the government is indeed aware of the plight of its people and it is taking steps to remedy the addiction problem.
More than simply increasing funding for community treatment programs, there are laws in the works that will attempt to curb the propensity that many physicians have today for prescribing opiates that lead to addiction.
Obama was very particular about admitting the ineffectiveness of treating addiction as a criminal issue rather than a public health problem. He accepted that his government’s determination to look at drug abuse through the criminal justice lens had done very little to prevent the proliferation of heroin and opiates across the country.
He promised to work with congress to provide more funding for drug recovery services, this along with putting in place programs that would assist addicts to reintegrate into society following their treatment.