A national collaborative group has been formed by four nonprofits — one of which funds anti-drug abuse programs in Wisconsin — to pursue better outcomes for people with substance abuse disorders.
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, the Legal Action Center, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and the Treatment Research Institute have come together to form the Addiction Solutions Campaign at a time when opioid addiction is rampant nationwide.
Between 2000 and 2015, more than 500,000 Americans died from drug overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In Wisconsin alone, more people died from opioid overdoses in 2015 than from car accidents. And between 1999 and 2013, the state saw drug overdose deaths rise from four per 100,000 people to around 15 per 100,000, per the Department of Health Services.
The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids’ Medicine Abuse Project has active drug collection units in Altoona and Glendale, with others scattered all around the country. These drop-off points, run in partnership with CVS Pharmacy, allow individuals to dispose of unneeded prescription medications, lowering the risk they could wind up in the wrong hands.
The Medicine Abuse Project also distributes resources and fact sheets to help families understand how to keep opioids and other meds safe, as well as educational information on overdose reversal medicines like naloxone.
One of the national campaign’s first tasks will be to fight for equal insurance coverage for addiction treatment.
The Parity Act of 2008 — which is supposed to level the playing field insurance-wise for those with mental health issues or substance abuse disorders — has failed in doing so, according to Paul Samuels, director and president of the Legal Action Center and spokesperson for the Addiction Solutions Campaign.
“It is clear today that even as 144 Americans die every day from a drug overdose-related death, we are still struggling to address an unprecedented epidemic of substance use disorders, and that the requirements of the Parity Act are still not being met,” Samuels said.
The ASC says parity enforcement usually falls on consumers making complaints and appealing denials of coverage. And Samuels argues that important coverage and treatment access details are often missing from documents for insurance plans.
“It would be challenging – if not impossible – for an average consumer to know whether a plan violates the Parity Act,” Samuels said. “Yet, the current system relies on consumers to report problems to insurance regulators. When regulators don’t receive complaints, they assume the plans are in compliance.”
The Addiction Solutions Campaign will be advocating for a change in enforcement framework, so that rather than relying on consumer complaints after the fact, regulatory agencies can have a process of prospective review. This way, ASC argues, compliance with the Parity Act could be verified before a plan is approved.
–By Alex Moe