Fuzzy Math: Congress Makes a Small Down Payment for Opioid Response
Tucked in to last week’s continuing resolution was startup funding for the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). Allocating funding to CARA in this bipartisan bill – which temporarily funds the government while Congress settles on a FY2017 budget deal – is a significant accomplishment and it reflects the continued prioritization of this issue in Congress and within the Obama Administration.
While this is an important step forward, the amount authorized in the continuing resolution is a mere portion of the funding needed to curb overdose deaths and address substance use disorders nationwide.
At first glance, the continuing resolution appears to include $37 million toward CARA grant programs. However, that’s $37 million annually, and the spending bill only authorizes funding for the next 10 weeks. When you do the math, you’ll find that it’s only $7 million total, split between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice. The price tag on CARA is estimated at $181 million annually. The continuing resolution funding is a good start, but not nearly enough for an issue this big.
From the recovery community to local prevention coalitions to diverse national coalitions, there has been a widespread and sustained effort since the president signed CARA into law in July to ensure funding is available to fulfill the commitments made in CARA. It’s important to keep up the pressure and push for funding that reflects the scope of the problem.
- Educate your members of Congress about the need to prioritize funding to address opioid-related overdoses. Underscore the importance of allocating resources to evidence-based prevention, treatment, and recovery supports.
- Talk to your local and state elected officials about the need to fund programs that address addiction in your community.
- Familiarize yourself with CARA grants programs to prepare for new initiatives that may come to your state if CARA is funded. Engage with state or local agencies and with your community partners to identify who may be shepherding these funds and to develop a plan for how to maximize CARA funding.
- With CARA funding on the horizon, federal agencies – including SAMHSA, and ONDCP – are likely to begin planning for these new initiatives. These agencies will have some leeway for how to use this funding. Check these agencies websites and subscribe to their email alerts to find opportunities to weigh in.
Thanks to hard work and organized advocacy, we’ve already cleared major hurdles: The first comprehensive federal addiction legislation ever was signed into law. The Administration and numerous influential members of Congress in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle are committed to tackling this issue. The national conversion around addition is shifting to one about treatment and support, instead of moral failings and punishment. Now, we need to capitalize on this progress and keep pushing for adequate funding.
Addiction has been a devastating issue for communities across the country for decades. Now, opioid-related overdoses have created a public health crisis. This issue remains a national emergency, and we need to urge our leaders to allocate sufficient resources to address it.