By Dr. Bob Vero

Most of us have been impacted by addiction. Whether it be through a parent, spouse, child, friend, co-worker or neighbor, few of us are immune to its effects, and unfortunately this trend is growing.
Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tennessee had the country’s fourteenth highest rate of deaths due to overdose (1,630) in 2016, a statistically significant ten percent increase from 2015.

As a nation, we’re losing Americans in what should be the prime of their lives at record high numbers to an unprecedented drug crisis. To ensure the future of our local communities and our nation at-large, this cannot continue. Fortunately, we can change this startling statistic. Addiction is a disease that we know can be treated, but we must do more to ensure that we are providing people with the highest quality treatment and safest possible care.

Today, many seeking addiction treatment simply have no access to proper care – or, sadly, in some cases, to any care at all. It’s estimated that up to 30 million Americans are living in rural counties where no treatment options exist. In areas where some treatment options do exist, many are receiving insufficient care because there are no quality standards for addiction treatment.

This lack of standards means that a person seeking care at five different treatment centers may receive five different treatment protocols. In many cases, these protocols might not be comprehensive enough. Since addiction has biological, psychological and social factors, individuals may need a range of services, including residential care, Intensive outpatient, medication-assisted treatment, counseling, addiction education, peer support and assistance with finding employment and/or housing to sustain recovery.

For the health and wellbeing of our country, we must provide additional resources to ensure everyone has access to the right addiction treatment and develop standards that incentivize providers to offer the best care – delivering positive outcomes.
Congressmen Brett Guthrie of Kentucky and Gene Green of Texas, along with Senators Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, have proposed a new bill that could reduce barriers to lifesaving care in some areas hardest hit by the opioid epidemic. The Comprehensive Opioid Recovery Centers Act of 2018 would establish and fund Comprehensive Opioid Recovery Centers (CORCs) in areas with high rates of overdose deaths.

Funded centers would provide a full continuum of treatment services including medically supervised detoxification, counseling, peer support, residential services, housing and job placement support. All centers would report the outcomes of people they treat as well as the effectiveness of interventions, which could provide much needed perspective on best practices that can be deployed nationwide.
In addition, Tennessee Congressman Marsha Blackburn and Senator Lamar Alexander are taking strides to address strategies and secure sufficient resources for prevention, treatment and law enforcement that can help save lives.

All of us at Centerstone commend congressional members for their leadership in proposing meaningful solutions to combat the opioid crisis and provide evidence-based care for members of our community seeking addiction treatment. As a nation, we must do better to ensure those struggling with addiction receive effective care. As Congress continues to debate solutions to the opioid epidemic we urge leaders to take decisive action on legislation that supports evidence based, comprehensive care. Ensuring treatment standards is a critical step in saving lives and stemming the tide on opioid crisis.