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Both Party Platforms Address Drugs & Treatment

September 2, 2008
by Daniel Guarnera
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The Democratic National Convention concluded last Friday, and the Republican National Convention starts in earnest tonight in St. Paul (after being delayed a day by Hurricane Gustav). Conventions provide both parties with a unique chance to define themselves--entirely on their own terms--for a national audience. What will they have to say about treatment and recovery?

One of the highlights of both conventions will be the official adoption of the 2008 party platforms. Far more than in past years, both the Republicans and Democrats embraced the 21st century and used the Internet to receive platform input from grassroots organizations and even individuals--they even accepted video submissions!

The Dems adopted their platform--"Renewing America's Promise"--last week at the DNC convention in Denver. Some notable excerpts:

  • "We will finally achieve long-overdue mental health and addiction treatment parity."
  • "Chronic-care and behavioral health management should be assured for all Americans who require care coordination. This includes assistance for those recovering from the traumatic life altering injuries and illnesses as well as those with mental health and substance use disorders. We should promote additional tobacco and substance abuse prevention."
  • "We must help state, local and tribal law enforcement work together to combat and prevent drug crime and drug and alcohol abuse, which are a blight on our communities. We will restore funding for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program and expand the use of drug courts and rehabilitation programs for first-time, non-violent drug offenders."

The GOP just recently released its draft platform, which will be voted on during the Republican National Convention this week in Minnesota. The key quotes:

  • "There must be adequate counseling when veterans return home - for them and their families. They should have ongoing professional care ... We recognize the need for more mental health professionals who can give the highest quality treatment to our veterans."
  • "School-based mental health programs should not include the use of psychotropic drugs."
  • "The human toll of drug addiction and abuse hits all segments of American society. It is an international problem as well, with most of the narcotics in this country coming from beyond our borders. We will continue the fight against producers, traffickers, and distributors of illegal substances and support the work of those who help individuals struggling with addiction. We endorse state and local initiatives, such as Drug Courts, that are trying new approaches to curbing drug abuse and diverting first-time offenders to rehabilitation."
  • "Decentralized decision-making in the place of official controls empowers individuals and groups to tackle social problems in partnership with government. Bureaucracy is no longer a credible approach to helping those in need. This is especially true in light of alternatives such as faith-based organizations, which tend to have a greater degree of success than others in dealing with problems such as substance abuse and domestic violence. To accomplish their missions, those groups must be able to rely upon people who share their faith; their hiring must not be subjected to government regulation and mandates."

What do you think?



How do these statements about mental health and substance abuse treatment fit into the parties' larger debates about healthcare and health insurance?

There are good intentions from both sides, to be sure, but it still seems inadequate. For example, mental heath and addiction treatment parity are good - but what about for those who don't have health insurance? What does parity mean to them?

Like David and Goliath. Any so called change agent is up against the Goliath of the Medical/Pharmaceutical/Insurance industrial complex, which has had a stranglehold on the US for over 40 years now. We see what that has produced: the US is the "shame" of every industrialized nation in the world, with the poorest health care or the greatest lack thereof. Wealthy CEO's and doctors who live in palaces, and will not stoop to aid someone, but rather to legally bleed someone dry, leaves only one affordable option for health care: go home, get in bed, and die there. And if you are lucky, you might be able to afford some aspirin. When will everyone "get it", that we are fed up! And promises are empty. It is well past time to see some performance.

I'm currently rdeaing the book Against the Gates of Hell: A Crack House Exodus , and I am getting so much from it!! I'm only on chapter 16, and I've learned so many new things. One new thing that I've learned is that being self-centered does NOT only apply to folk that are very prideful and arrogant; it also applies to folk who are self-conscience as well. When I read that, I was floored!! That really hit home with me because I'm self-conscience I mean self-centered as well.Then there's my favorite character, who just so happens to share my name, Rene. I love her spirit and her Godly feistiness; she's gonna let you know what's up in a Godly way and with lots of love. To me she proves to be the glue that holds the family together. I can really relate to her in that I feel like that person for my family as well. One more thing that I have in common with Rene, besides our name, is that we both love to write. She writes poetry and songs (that is music & lyrics), and I write poetry and songs (just lyrics though) as well.I am also learning what things are like for people suffering from and struggling with drug addiction. Looking at Kerby and seeing that he's an okay dude makes me feel some comfort. After all, we all have problems and issues; they just come with a different set of circumstances for others. I really like the statement that was made that went drug addiction is just a symptom of the real problem (or something like that). It made me realize that people don't use just to be using; they use to try to escape reality, to get away from a problem that they can't seem to face, or to help cope with something that happened that they can't change. I can also relate to this in that I was using social networks as a sort of escape at one time, but thanks be to God and the love of my life interceding for me, I shook loose from it.I'm so looking forward to what the rest of the book has in store!! And as soon as I'm finished, I'll be back to let you know more!!!! One Love Always Christ's Love!!!

Great questionsthere's no doubt that, in the long run, treatment and recovery advocates need to keep a sharp eye on where addiction services fit in with the health care system more broadly. It's hoped that insurance parity will help people access addiction treatment the same way they access their other medical care, and SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment) initiatives, which involve doing basic alcohol and drug use screenings in primary care offices, emergency rooms, and other settings, are all the rage in Washington policy circles. And since we're in the thick of the presidential race, here are the links to the health care reform proposals being pushed by Sen. McCain ( ) and Sen. Obama ( ).

Daniel Guarnera

Daniel Guarnera is the Director of Government Relations for NAADAC, The Association for...

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