The White House Steps in to Help Addicts
We recently reported on a number of top scientists who believe the heroin epidemic is on its way out. While that’s wonderful news it doesn’t exactly help the men and women caught in active opioid addiction.
Well, it looks like President Obama and the White House have a new plan to help heroin addicts!
The Office of National Drug Control Policy recently announced a multimillion-dollar program to target and gather data from fifteen East Coast states, as well as create local “drug intelligence officers” and pair them with public health coordinators to parse the data.
In practical terms, this will allow officials to learn where heroin is coming from, where it’s going, how it’s being transported, where it’s being laced with drugs like fentanyl, and who is selling it on a street level.
White House officials have long talked about the challenges of gathering accurate and time sensitive drug trend information. This is their attempt to combat that as it applies to heroin and other powerful opioid painkillers.
A senior White House official, speaking anonymously, told the Washington Post,
“Our approach needs to be broad and inclusive…Law enforcement is only one part of what really needs to be a comprehensive public health, public safety approach.”
Sounds good to me! Read on to learn exactly what this new program will do and what states it covers!
High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas
What exactly will this new program accomplish? Well, at its most basic, it’s going to provide money to hire fifteen drug intelligence officers and health policy analysts who will do the following:
- Collect heroin trafficking, use & overdose data
- Identify patterns
- Identify major heroin distributors & coordinate multistate approaches to their arrest
- Identify heroin use & overdose trends
- Distribute all information to street-level police, firefighters & health workers
- Train first responders on the use of Narcan
These measures will be implemented in fifteen of the country’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas. They’re going to cover the following fifteen states along the East Coast, with one pair of officials per state: Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia.
Probably the largest advantage this new program offers is the speed at which data will be collected and circulated to law enforcement and health officials. In fact, various government officials are already praising the program as an innovate and unique approach to facilitating access to health data that usually takes years to be seen.
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Is it Too Little Too Late?
Despite being loved by many, the White House’s new plan isn’t without its fair share of critics.
Lighthouse reported on how Obama proposed a total of $27.6 billion to be spent on drug abuse prevention in 2016. Compare that to the funding for this current project – a paltry $2.5 million.
Not to mention that the Obama administration proposed $133 million should be spent this year alone to help fight the over prescription of painkillers and expand the use of Medication Assisted Therapies.
There seems to be a pretty large discrepancy between what’s being proposed and what’s actually happening. Still, change takes time and two and a half million dollars isn’t anything to laugh at.
There’s also the fact that this $2.5 million is only one small part of a larger $13.4 million grant to High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas. From what we can tell, the remainder of that money is being used to fund law enforcement initiatives.
Again, this doesn’t come without its fair share of naysayers. Bill Piper, the Director of the Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs, is just one of these. He recently told USA Today,
“Half of what they’re doing is right – the focus on health and overdose prevention – but the other half, the side that focuses on the failed arrest and incarceration policies of the past is destined to ruin lives and fail.”
It’s a debate as old as time itself. Should addicts be offered treatment or be arrested? Regardless of where you stand on that matter – and opinions tend to vary widely – we can all agree that money going towards gathering heroin trafficking and use data is money well spent.
After all, we’re not going to push the heroin epidemic off America’s plate until we fully understand how people are transporting, selling, and using the drug. This latest initiative brings us one step closer to understanding and, ultimately, one step closer to winning.