Drug Addiction

There is no denying that addiction is a harsh reality in our communities here on Cape Cod. Whether it’s family break-up, criminal behavior, dereliction, homelessness, or fatal overdoses we all know someone who has been affected. According to the Regional Substance Abuse Counci,l over 5,600 people are addicted to opioid drugs and over 17,000 people are addicted to alcohol in Barnstable County. Overdoses are now the leading cause of injury-related deaths. It is unacceptable that jail is often the only bed available. It is unacceptable that we have to fight the insurance companies to get the care our loved ones need. And it is an unacceptable tragedy that more and more  parents are burying their children. It is abundantly clear that we have failed to confront substance abuse in an effective way. I will fight everyday to change that.

First and foremost, we must understand addiction as a public health crisis, not a criminal justice crisis. The American Medical Association defines addiction is a chronic disease and I will fight to treat as such. We must change the way we think about, talk about, and treat addicts. These are our friends, spouses, family members, sons, and daughters with a disease. They deserve to be treated with respect. The stigma attached to addiction is as damaging as the disease itself and can often keep people who want treatment from seeking it.

Second is prevention and early intervention. The most effective way of dealing with any chronic disease is to prevent it. By investing in prevention and early intervention early we identify those individuals who may need services and connect them quickly to the proper care. We currently invest less than 1% of all the money spent on addiction on prevention.

Third, we need treatment on-demand for people regardless of income or insurance policy. Telling sick people to wait days or weeks for access to treatment is absolutely repugnant. Treatment needs to be available the moment someone decides to seek help. Waiting for beds to open up or insurance to kick in is unacceptable in our society. No one would tell someone in a diabetic coma to call back in a few days.

Fourth, we need to fight the insurance companies to pay for services after treatment. Insurance needs to cover longer treatment stays, sober houses, urine tests, therapy, mental health treatment and job training for individuals after treatment. No chronic condition on Earth can be remedied in thirty days.

Fifth, we need to invest more in harm reduction and community policing. Harm reduction is one of the most cost-effective ways of keeping people safe and eventually getting them into treatment. Community policing efforts allow our law enforcement and social service professionals to work together to protect and serve our community in a compassionate and more cost-efficient way. By investing more in prevention and treatment we end up saving money and creating lasting change.

Finally, we need to build a community where people can afford to work and live. By fighting poverty and creating jobs we can foster a vibrant healthy community that all citizens can flourish in, not just the wealthy ones.