Jay's Corner: The Skinny On The Final Report

January 17, 2018 | Jay Ruais

Jay Ruais Addiction Policy Forum

On March 29, 2017, President Trump established the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis and tasked it with studying ways to combat and treat substance misuse and addiction.

Chaired by Governor Chris Christie (NJ), the Commission board was made up of the Honorable Patrick Kennedy, Dr. Bertha Madras, Attorney General Pam Bondi (FL), Governor Pat Cooper (NC) and Governor Charlie Baker (MA).

Jessica Hulsey Nickel, President and CEO of Addiction Policy Forum, President and CEO, spoke at the first hearing in June.

At the fifth and final hearing on Nov. 1st, we were honored to have our Families Committee Co-Chair, Doug Griffin, spoke about the experience of losing his daughter, Courtney, to an overdose. In a testimony that gripped the room, Griffin testified with grace and urgency about the actions needed to address the epidemic. Watch his testimony here.

At the close of the hearing, after seven months of work, the Commission voted unanimously to accept the Final Report. Read it here.

In the report, the Commission made 56 recommendations within the following seven areas of focus:

1.Federal Funding and Programs
2.Opioid Addiction Prevention
3.Prescribing Guidelines, Regulations, Education
4.Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) Enhancements
5.Supply Reduction and Enforcement Strategies
6.Opioid Addiction Treatment, Overdose Reversal, and Recovery
7.Research and Development

One of the most significant recommendations in the report was the suggestion to grant waiver approvals for all 50 states to lift the Institutes for Mental Diseases (IMD) Exclusion within the Medicaid Program.

Currently, The Social Security Act prohibits Federal Medicaid funds from reimbursing services provided for “mental diseases,” including substance use disorders, in inpatient facilities with more than 16 beds. This puts the onus almost entirely on the state to provide for Medicaid-eligible patients in need of inpatient treatment for substance use disorders. The lifting of IMD Exclusion would immediately offer greater access to care for millions of Americans. To take advantage of this expanded access to care Governors would have to apply for these waivers.

Other Key Recommendations:

  • Streamline federal money for; a core ask of Governors to better request and track dollars
  • Implement federal drug courts in every one of the 93 federal district courts in America
  • Enact new opioid prescribing training requirements for all doctors
  • Enforce the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act
  • Equip all emergency medical staff with naloxone, an overdose reversal drug

Jessica issued the following statement upon the release of the final report:

“The President’s Commission has taken both a comprehensive and thoughtful approach to addressing addiction in America. The Commission, led by Governor Chris Christie, heard a diverse set of perspectives in its effort to study the scope and effectiveness of the federal response to drug addiction. These perspectives enabled the Commission to develop a set of recommendations that, if implemented, will provide much needed support for people in crisis and effective resources for communities deeply affected by the disease of addiction.”

Now, our efforts must turn toward encouraging Congress and the White House to act upon these recommendations.

So call, email, and write to your representatives. Attend an open forum and request a meeting with a staffer. Leave your contact information in case their office would like to follow-up. Check-in periodically to offer assistance. Be persistent. Arrive with talking points and informed questions. Make clear to your Member of Congress that addiction is an issue their constituents are invested in. 

The statistics associated with the opioid crisis make an inarguable case for major investments in the six pillars of a comprehensive response to addiction, but numbers alone cannot adequately communicate the human cost for millions of American families. The stories of loss, your stories, give these numbers a heartbeat and make clear the true stakes of this disease.

Help us make sure these recommendations get translated into action.