I’ve lived on Long Island's North Shore all my life, and I’ve lived in Smithtown for the last ten years with my wife Terri. We were married in 1983 and have two boys. David Jr. is an actor and producer living in Brookly. William, our first bornis in heaven now from chronic use of heroin.
I am a software engineer (38 years) with a masters degree in Business Administration (MBA), and a certified Project Management Professional.
I am a "Person In Recovery" (est. 1980).
And I am the father of an addict who passed away in 2016 due to the opioid crisis. Since William left us, I have advocated for the recovery movement with LIRA, FIST, and LI-CAN.
The data is trending in the wrong direction when it comes to substance use disorder, especially addiction to opioids.
- Our current policies and practices still result in a doubling every ten years in the death rates from overdose. Opiate addiction kills an estimated 75,000 a year now, and in ten years left unchecked it will be 150,000 nationally.
- Substance related traffic deaths, obesity mortality are on the increase.
- Cigarette addiction is still steadily killing almost half a million people a year.
- Probably a million a year are dying of addiction and substance-related deaths, more than other causes.
Addiction costs society in many ways…
- revolving door rehabs exhaust insurance company funds
- out-of-state rehabs have little regulation
- traffic fatalities
- Death from substance abuse is under-reported
- A lost generation that outnumbers the AIDS epidemic in its entirety.
- Lost productivity of workers who are worried about their family member suffering from substance use disorder.
- Families that suffer like this feel lost and ostracized.
As the father of a young man who died from chronic use of heroin and cocaine, I believe that we be ready for the rare opportunities that come when a person has a moment of clarity that their lives are unmanageable, and are desperate for help. When they are ready, we too need to be ready, to offer them life-saving treatment-on-demand.
Here is what I think will help:
- More recovery services
o Recovery High schools on Long Island, geared to help students in recovery.
o More THRIVE centers and peer-to-peer counseling.
o Job re-training services for those in recovery, especially training in addiction counseling, social work, and related support fields. Often the best counselors are people in recovery.
o Incentivize employers to hire people in recovery.
- Treatment services
o Shirpas in every ER
o Medially Assisted Treatment (MAT) on demand, including Naltrexone and Buprenorphine.
o More quality treatment centers in New York State. (Too many times people go out of state, where they have little regulation.)
o Teachers and families need support for k-12 evidence based awareness and peer to peer practices, and prevention techniques.
o We need addiction counselors in every school, to help guide those seeking or in need of recovery.
o Doctors and psychiatrists need more education on effective, evidence-based harm reduction, treatment, and prevention techniques.
o We need to end the negative public perceptions about substance use disorder. It is a disease, not a choice. If we don’t think that way, allows medical services won’t get to the people who need them. They deserve help, the same as any other disease.
- Regulatory changes
o We need insurance to fund treatment-on-demand.
o We need to make it less difficult for doctors to prescribe life-saving MAT (Medically Assisted Treatment) drugs. Currently it is easier to prescribe Oxycontin.
o Mental health parity laws need to be enforced.
o Government watchdogs that are supposed to be guarding against addiction have been rendered toothless by Big Pharma’s lobbyists. This needs to stop.
o Courts need to stop jailing addicts who should be in treatment.
o We need to shift money from prisons to treatment centers and sober living arrangements,
o We need to create sober high schools.
o We need to learn from Virginia and France and Portugal, which all have dramatically reduced death rates from addiction
o We need to give prescription drug enforcement powers back to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)
o Create a superfund to clean up the toxic mess left by Big Pharma
Benefits of improved mental health sand related services…
- One dollar invested in this way returns seven to society.
- Helps the environment
- Improves the general quality of healthcare when we include mental health issues.
- growing quality jobs...
- Most of the 38,000 gun deaths last year were from suicide. Improved mental health treatment will reduce gun deaths.
We need to continue building on the successes with these other issues too …
- deaths from natural disasters, starvation, cancers, firearms, wars and terrorism are declining decade over decade, but not fast enough.
- today's conveniences in our homes exceed that of royalty 200 years ago, but many people are too sick to enjoy them.
- We need to prepare for a future where
o Our elderly will be living well into their hundreds. We need to keep their minds healthy, not just their bodies.
o Electric driverless vehicles become the norm
o Tube transportation replaces trains
- We need single payer health insurance – medicare for all – while allowing people to purchase add-on insurance.
- Since Citizen’s United considers corporations with the same rights as individuals, Corporations should have to recycle, the same as everybody else.
- We need more peer tutors and adult tutors for Common Core subjects, so that students can learn from their peers, and peer tutors receive special recognition. This would help alleviate the burden on teachers.
Every other disease in medicine is on the decline except addiction. Substance use disorder requires dramatically better treatment, which requires investment in specialized training, and hiring of new workers to support a recovery infrastructure. Policy shifts are needed to do this. Private practices need to change. This is a paradigm shift we must make now. Fixing this issue will benefit everyone. We can build on this model to improve the rest of healthcare, the environment, the job market, and the world.