“Do not mistake talk for action. The funding is needed.”
The spotlight shone by President Trump last week on the opioid addiction crisis sweeping the country was a welcome use of the bully pulpit. He even strayed away from his prepared remarks to talk personally about his late brother’s problems with addiction and the impact it had on him. But the president didn’t put any money behind his concern and that concerns Susan Blumenthal.
“The president was shining a spotlight on this issue, but without any new funds,” Blumenthal told me in the latest episode of “Cape Up,” adding “we worry that it is all bark and no bite.” And that’s not the only worry of the physician and former assistant surgeon general who is also a retired rear admiral in the United States public-health service. Blumenthal, who believes “at least $45 billion” is needed, fears where the money could come from.
“One of the things that was of great concern was the stipulation in the White House announcement that said, ‘The action allows for shifting of resources within HIV-AIDS programs to help people eligible for those programs receive substance abuse treatment which is important, given the connection between HIV transmission and substance abuse,” Blumenthal said reading from the Oct. 26 statement. “Now if you look at the public health emergency act, it stipulates that 5 percent of part A and B from Ryan White Act, can be used for any public health emergency. I’m not sure how that happened, but we still have an HIV epidemic in America.”
Listen to the podcast to hear Blumenthal explain why we can’t lose focus of the other health emergencies facing the nation as we address the opioid crisis and how access to health care is an essential part of the solution. “Three out of 10 people getting addiction services are on Medicaid, and 31 states and the District of Columbia did expand Medicaid” under the ACA, she said before noting that in some areas of the country, the opioid crisis is overlaying other health emergencies, such as HIV/AIDS. “The main point here is to underscore we need comprehensive insurance access because these are not issues that can be viewed by themselves but in an integrated way.”