The public's increased willingness to look at addiction and recovery topics as viable political campaign issues can only be seen as a positive for the treatment community. Yet for the candidates for office, it appears they'll need to make sure that any results they have achieved in this arena match their rhetoric.
The Star Ledger newspaper in New Jersey last weekend jumped on presidential candidate and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's recent messaging on addiction as a disease by questioning his actual commitment to substance use treatment in his actions as governor. A lengthy newspaper piece on Nov. 29 featured comments from providers and advocates about ever-longer waiting lists for publicly supported treatment in the state.
While crediting the governor for expanding inmate re-entry services and signing a law to divert more nonviolent offenders to treatment-focused drug courts, the Star-Ledger article stated, “In fact, in real dollars, New Jersey is investing less in treatment now than the day Christie took office.”
The article generated an approving response from retired Integrity House founding president David Kerr, who wrote in an electronic communication, “It's a sad fact that addicts will get a prison bed immediately but must wait weeks and sometimes months to get treatment and recovery help for their addiction. Paying for additional treatment beds helps addicts better than incarceration and saves taxpayers dollars, yet it's not a state priority!”
Both Republican candidate Christie and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton have talked at some length about substance use treatment during the campaign, and it won't come as a surprise if other presidential contenders join them. In a recent New Hampshire poll, voters ranked drug abuse ahead of the economy as a subject of major concern to them. Clearly, the opioid crisis in the Northeast has gone mainstream as a topic of discussion.
Then just this week, outcome data consultant MAP Health Management released results of a survey it commissioned in which 73% of a group of just over 1,000 adults said they would be more likely to support a presidential candidate who pledged to expand addiction treatment and recovery services. The survey, conducted by The Mellman Group, also found that respondents valued a treatment facility's record of long-term success in patient care as a driving factor in the selection of a treatment option.