With the addiction crisis that has been taking place across the United States over the past ten years, hardly any Congressional district has been left untouched. Many politicians made fighting opiate addiction a part of their platform during the 2016 election, and met with constituents to hear their stories of crisis and loss.
However, as Republicans plan for repealing the Affordable Care Act, organizations dedicating to fighting the addiction crisis are putting big money into education for lawmakers. One of these groups, named Shatterproof, plans to spend $300,000 on a campaign alongside the National Council for Behavioral Health, a DC-based organization representing 2,800 providers of mental health and addiction treatment.
The two organizations have created a laser-focus effort on targeting Republican legislators in eight states, including: Alaska, Arizona, Ohio, West Virginia, Maine, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Ohio, and Nevada. These states have experienced some of the highest rates of opioid addiction in the country, and have also, in most cases, benefited most from the services provided by the ACA.
Treatment centers have often pointed out that even when treatment centers have the capacity to treat individuals for substance abuse, often the funding isn’t there. The ACA is credited with helping bridge the funding gap through affordable insurance and even Medicaid, helping the poorest and most vulnerable citizens get the help they need with overcoming addiction.
The numbers of people affected by ACA repeal could be devastating, increasing the gap between opioid addiction care and treatment by at least 50% due to the decreased access and funding. Researchers from Harvard Medical School and New York State University estimate that 2.8 million Americans with substance-abuse disorders may lose some or all of their insurance if the ACA is repealed. About 220,000 of these people are fighting an opioid addiction.
Addiction isn’t a one-dimensional disease. What worries expert as well is the other mental health disorders that will go untreated as well. Researches estimate that the ACA repeal will create a $5.5 billion annual shortfall from treatment of mental-health conditions as well. While addiction is included in this number, there are many related disorders and co-occurring disorders that will likely go untreated as well. Mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, PTSD and eating disorders may go untreated without Medicaid or insurance-related funding.
Earlier this week, the National Council for Behavioral Health asked treatment providers to write their members of Congress to oppose an ACA repeal and ask lawmakers to “protect our nation’s most vulnerable patient population and preserve their access to treatment.” So far, it appears that none of them has received a response. If you or your family will be affected by the repeal, you can find your lawmakers contact information here. Many activists say that emails are bouncing or phone lines don’t pick up, so it’s suggested that you send a letter via regular “snail mail” as well.
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