Clinton Campaign Outlines $10 Billion Plan to Fight Substance Abuse

Sep 2, 2015

States would receive four dollars in federal money for every dollar they invest in substance abuse prevention and treatment under a plan announced today by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The plan, outlined in a conference call with reporters, would direct $10 billion in new federal funds to drug and alcohol addiction programs over 10 years.

About $7.5 billion would be used to support federal-state partnerships to bolster substance-abuse education in schools, expand the availability of recovery programs and divert non-violent offenders to treatment rather than prison or jail.

The initiative would also add another $2.5 billion over 10 years to a federal block grant program for prevention and treatment.

Part of that funding would be used to make it easier for people addicted to opioids to get medication-assisted treatment. Clinton proposes lifting the 100-patient cap on physicians who are certified to treat patients with buprenorphine, a treatment for opioid dependence. And her plan would also allow non-physicians – nurse practitioners and physicians assistants – to prescribe the medication.

In New Hampshire, 326 people died from drug overdose in 2014, and more than 200 have already died in 2015. Meanwhile, the state has struggled to meet the demand for treatment, from detox to intensive in-patient care.

During the call, Clinton’s plan was endorsed by several people on the frontlines of New Hampshire’s battle with opioid addiction, including Tym Rourke, chair of Gov. Maggie Hassan’s Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention.

Rourke applauded the proposal’s emphasis on treating addiction as a disease, rather than a “moral failing,” and the goal of making sure treatment is available to everyone who needs it.  

“I think [that] is a profound step forward in how we address addiction in our society,” Rourke said.

Strafford County Sheriff  David Dubois described Clinton’s proposal as “very much in line” with his department’s approach to the problem.

Strafford County, which sees about three overdose cases a week, is one of half-dozen counties in New Hampshire with a drug court that connects non-violent felons and parolees with community-based treatment and case management services.

“We are really excited about the potential to sustain and expand our current programs, which are in line with this plan,” Dubois said.

Sara Sollow, a domestic policy advisor for Clinton, said the $10 billion initiative will be part of an “on-going theme” of the campaign, aimed at highlighting the need for policies that address drug and alcohol abuse.

The plan encourages states to work with local schools to develop age-specific education programs, and to collect data that would identify where gaps in treatment resources exist.

Clinton also proposes helping states cover the cost of the overdose-reversing drug naloxone, as well as training first responders in its use.

Sollow said, in addition to working with individual states, Clinton would use her authority as president to enforce federal laws that prohibit insurance carriers from discriminating against people with substance-abuse disorders and mental illness.

“That statute is already on the books, but it is not being implemented or enforced,” Sollow said.