The Biden Presidency and Fighting the Opioid Crisis
The United States is in the midst of an opioid crisis, and President-elect Joe Biden has a plan to end it. During Biden’s four decades in the Senate, he was known as the drug policy hawk, but he’s taking a different approach now. The Biden administration wants to focus on opioid addiction treatment and prevention of the crisis, not law enforcement. Things have only gotten worse with the drug epidemic, due to the pandemic, so something has to be done.
Biden’s Plan for the Opioid Epidemic
Biden will emphasize new funding for substance abuse prevention and treatment, and call to eliminate jail time for drug use. He will make sure people have access to high-quality care including substance use disorder treatment and mental health services. Biden will take a public health approach to deal with these disorders while protecting and building on Obamacare. Biden’s plan will focus on the following:
- Make reforms so that no one is incarcerated for only drug use.
- Stem the flow of heroin and fentanyl into the U.S., especially from Mexico and China.
- Make a $125 billion federal investment towards effective treatment, prevention, and recovery services that will be available for all.
- Stop overprescribing while improving access to effective and needed pain management.
- Hold big pharma accountable for its role in triggering the opioid crisis.
Joe Biden has put together a team of addiction experts who have extensive backgrounds in public health. He views this crisis as a public health issue. Biden does realize that law enforcement has a big part to play in this, however, he plans to lead with a public health strategy.
The Biden Administration and Opioid Crisis
With this current pandemic, the opioid crisis has only gotten worse. Federal health officials say the drug crisis has been amplified by high unemployment, months of social isolation, and the diversion of resources to combat the virus.
According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Services:
The Covid-19 pandemic is fueling the opioid crisis! Unlike Covid-19, there is no real-time national counting of opioid overdose deaths but, in the last two months, at least 30 states have reported increases in opioid fatalities since the start of the pandemic. The New York Times has referred to the Covid-19 pandemic as a “national relapse trigger.” In Erie County, New York, 85 people died from overdoses during the first four months of 2020: up 100% from that period last year. (NIH)
If Biden takes office, it will be at a crucial time in the fight against drug addiction. Double-digit overdose deaths, public health workers stretched thin fighting the virus, and budget deficits could force states to make a lot of cutbacks on public services. Biden’s $125 billion plan may face resistance from Congress since it is divided, but there are some immediate steps that he can take which don’t need Congress’s approval. Biden wants to change the White House’s drug control office and empower public health officials to shape the drug policy.
Public health organizations have urged Biden to elevate the head of the White House’s drug office into his Cabinet saying we are experiencing an “unprecedented addiction crisis.” This position is known as the nation’s drug czar. At the beginning of 2020 overdose deaths were down and then the pandemic hit; the pandemic has caused numbers to go back up. There was some hope there, but Covid-19 has thrown a wrench in it.
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Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019
Cayla Clark, BA
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.