What’s it going to take?
On a Friday morning, I attended a symposium on Substance Use Disorder SUD hosted by the Consortium of Alcohol and Substance Abuse in Rochester, NY. The event was attended by many New York Legislators and Government Leaders like Senators George Amedore, Jr, the Chairman of the Senate Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee and Senate Task Force on Heroin, Senator Joe Robach, Senator Rich Funke’s Office, Monroe County Executive Cherl Dinolfo, Congresswoman Louis Slaughters Office, Bob Kent, OASAS General Counsel, Robert Ross, President and John Coppola Executive Director of NYS Association of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Providers.
Craig Johnson, President of the Consortium presented many facts on substance use disorder (SUD). Now when you hear SUD, think all substances – cigarettes, alcohol, abuse of drugs prescribed by a doctor and those obtained illicitly like synthetics, marijuana, ecstasy, Molly, Heroin, and on and on. Facts shared were:
- Substance abuse is now seen as the #1 health problem
- Chemical Dependency is a Brain Disorder – a pediatric disease
- Substance abuse prevention, treatment & recovery must be central to the emergent paradigms of care under federal and state health care reform
- E-Cig use has increased among 8th, 10th, 12th graders
- Poison Calls related to ecigs went from 460 in 2012 to 3,957 in 2014
- One in five seniors report binge drinking
- 6% of high school seniors use marijuana daily, more than tobcco
- The US consumes 80% of the worlds Oxycontin and 90% of Hydrocodone prescriptions
- There are over 160 types of synthetic drugs in the U.S.
- 1 in 6 adults Binge Drink every month [8 drinks consumes/4x month]
Senator Amedore spoke of the increased funding he and his peers have endorsed to invest in additional prevention, recovery and treatment services. In 2010, $28 Billion was spent to treat 40 Million people with addiction while in comparison at the Federal Level we spent;
$44 Billion to treat diabetes effecting 26 Million people
$87 Billion to treat cancer affecting 19 Million people
$107 Billion to treat heart conditions affecting 27 Million people
The Task Force has requested an additional $26 Million in additional funds for the 2016 NYS Budget to help reform what is available today for people who suffer from SUD. $2 million has been asked for additional Prevention efforts in Schools. Here’s a link to the complete list of funds requested in the 2016-17 budget proposal to strengthen prevention, treatment, recovery, and education services:
SUD Reform isn’t just about changing policies, it’s about changing how we think as a society
Rob Kent, Oasas General Counsel used this analogy: The way our current health insurance system is set up, if someone relapses while in treatment for SUD, they are incarcerated if they are in drug court or kicked out of outpatient group/individual therapy and left to fend on their own without support.
Well, take that same scenario however now we have a person with Diabetes. And they go and eat a generous amount of cake which causes their counts to be off the chart. Does the health insurer say, no, you relapsed, you can’t have your insulin shot, we won’t cover it? Or as a society do we think, oh that person relapsed from their Diabetes maintenance, they made that choice so too bad if they don’t get treatment? Of course not! And this is the paradigm shift in thinking about SUD’s that our communities need to wrap our heads around. And damn quick!
The Reality of the day
Six hours after I left the symposium where I listened to progressive movement from Legislators and Health Professionals, I faced the reality of SUD. My third for this year, I attended the funeral of a young person in the community who battled with the disease. You see the fact of the matter is this; someone in recovery can be working their own path for days, months and even years and then this one time, this one forever-changed-the-world-day, the person relapses. Why? We don’t have that answer. We can guess, assume and try to find answers so that it makes more sense to us closest to our loved loss, but the truth is we just don’t know. We don’t know because there is much more research and study required to get to the root cause of SUD’s.
Standing in line, looking at the dozens of people including many young friends in attendance, red and swollen eyes, faces somber, I begin to wonder how many really truly understand the struggles this young person went through trying to fight the demons that drove his brain. Did they tell him how proud they were for his hard work of daily sobriety of this chronic brain disease? Did his recovery go unsaid to avoid negative reactions? Yet when I heard someone say, ‘I wish they could have just kicked it’, I SCREAM inside….
“There is no such thing as ‘just kicking it’!”
People working on their recoveries, they work hard each and every day to stay grounded, to learn and use the tools they’ve been taught to achieve success, a daily success. There is no one answer, no one single same path or one solution for those in recovery. The treatment options and programs are evolving as you read this. And I’ll be the first to tell you that there are DOZENS of paths people are instructed to take either by health insurance, courts, physicians, counselors, clinicians, friends, advertisements, 12 step programs and more. What works for one person may not for another. Until scientists and researchers can exactly pinpoint the reasons the way the brain works with SUD, families are at the mercy of being in experimental mode. Trying. Hoping. Praying. Watching. Fearing.
Ready to help change the reality?
For over 35 years now I have volunteered time, raised contributions and personally donated to organizations like the American Cancer Society, the Leukemia Society, the Diabetes Foundation, Homeless and Literacy Foundations, Animal Shelters, personal fundraisers and dozens more. On behalf of families struggling with SUD I am asking you to consider giving towards SUD prevention, recovery and treatment organizations.
SUD is everywhere. In every community. In every town. On every street. Please consider financially contributing. These prevention specialists, counselors, recovery coaches, addiction therapists, pastors, your neighbors, parents and families, are working very hard. They give their time, their heart and personal resources to help with research, prevention strategy campaigns, better treatment options and a world where there is equal parity with other chronic diseases.
Please don’t turn the other way. Reality sucks and it’s unacceptable.
Always Grateful for each day.