Congress passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), the first major federal addiction legislation in four decades, in July 2016. CARA authorizes national funding to combat the drug epidemic in our country, and focuses on six pillars. These include: expansion of prevention and education to promote recovery; increased availability of naloxone; expansion of disposal sites; expanded resources to treat incarcerated individuals suffering from addiction appropriately; development of treatment programs to fight opioid addiction, including medication-assisted treatment; and the reinforcement of statewide prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs).
CARA will change the way we provide treatment and assist pregnant and postpartum women, veterans, and youth. As a result, we need to ask ourselves these questions: What is it about our treatment programs that is working really well, and where do we have opportunities to improve? Are we effectively serving pregnant, postpartum and parenting women in their addiction treatment and recovery needs? Have we provided valuable and effective substance use prevention and health services for their children? These questions and more prompted my reflections on a recent Think Tank event in Washington, D.C.
Experts from around the country convened at this meeting of powerhouse women, who for three decades have done amazing work with pregnant, postpartum and parenting women suffering from substance use disorders and mental health diagnoses. Physicians, nurse practitioners, psychiatrists, therapists, researchers, clinicians and chief executives in all areas from the clinical, financial and evaluation sectors attended. The smartest of the smart were there. Many had started out in the trenches, and many continue to work in the trenches with this significantly challenged population.
Put on by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and its Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), this Think Tank was designed with the purpose of creating a pathway forward in the development of outpatient services for pregnant and postpartum women and their children. The goal was to reach a consensus in meeting the needs of the implementation of a family-centered approach to prevention, treatment and recovery for the women and their families, in various residential and outpatient settings. The federal government is getting ready to launch a new initiative for this population, which will now pertain to outpatient services.
Back in July, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said, “The opioid epidemic is one of the most pressing public health issues in the United States. More Americans now die from drug overdoses than car crashes.” With the current epidemic, and with so many pregnant and parenting women suffering through it, we in the industry are looking at applying the lessons we’ve learned to an outpatient setting. The focus will help determine how this level of care can wrap its arms around these women, so that they can not only get well, but thrive. And thrive not just in one area, but in all areas of their lives, from their trauma to their mental health, from their substance use to their parenting, from their work lives to their ability to be financially successful.