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Closing the Addiction Treatment Gap Initiative Highlights Opportunities for New 'Drug Czar'
Date:3/11/2009

BALTIMORE, March 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Open Society Institute's Closing the Addiction Treatment Gap (CATG) today said key opportunities exist for the new Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDPC) to shift and strengthen the United States' approach to the problem of addiction.

Timed with today's announcement of Seattle Police Chief R. Gil Kerlikowske's official nomination as the nation's "drug czar," the CATG initiative called on the Obama Administration and Chief Kerlikowske to review and reform the overall rhetoric and direction that has surrounded the U.S. approach to addiction issues for decades.

"The new director can exploit significant opportunities," said CATG Director Victor Capoccia. "America doesn't need an 'Office of National Drug Control Policy' at all. As a first priority, we hope he realizes that America instead needs an 'Office of Addiction Prevention and Treatment' that truly understands addiction as a health condition, and that helps federal, state and local entities to address this health condition."

Other opportunities outlined by the CATG initiative include the following:

  • Acknowledge that addiction is a chronic disease. Right now an estimated 23 million Americans suffer from addiction and need treatment; sadly, only one in 10 of them (2.4 million) gets the treatment they need. Lack of insurance, inadequate insurance coverage, and insufficient public funds are chief among the many reasons for this gap.
  • Create an appropriate balance between policies that control access to harmful substances, and policies that provide access to and support for treatment. Addiction is not only a disease but a chronic disease. The drug control office's numbers for fiscal year 2009 (developed by the prior administration) perpetuate a narrow emphasis on law enforcement, devoting almost two-thirds of its funding to domestic law enforcement, interdiction or international programs. Funds for treatment and prevention should not be secondary.
  • Ensure that addiction is routinely covered and treated under our nation's health-care system. Twenty percent of Americans between the ages of 12 and 65 lack health insurance, and for those with the disease of addiction, the lack of health insurance is even greater. The combination - insufficient insurance coverage and inadequate public funds for treatment - has created a gap between the number of people who need treatment (23 million) and the number of people who get the treatment they need (2 million).

The Closing the Addiction Treatment Gap initiative seeks to ensure that all people who need treatment have access to quality addiction treatment services. The initiative aims to bridge the treatment gap through three strategies: broadening insurance coverage, increasing public funding, and achieving greater program efficiency and quality.

For more information on the initiative, please visit www.treatmentgap.org.

The Open Society Institute, a private operating and grantmaking foundation, works to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. To achieve its mission, OSI seeks to shape public policies that assure greater fairness in political, legal, and economic systems and safeguard fundamental rights. OSI works in over 60 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East, as well as in the United States.

    Contact: Debra Rubino
    410-234-1091


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SOURCE The Open Society Institute
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