Effective prevention and treatment options exist, yet barriers to their access are prevalent. Compared to other healthcare specialties, the addiction recovery field faces disproportionate challenges such as stigma, lack of health insurance, inadequate funding, and a workforce crisis.5 The increasing demand for treatment has overwhelmed local and state resources, resulting in many patients being turned away or placed on waiting lists. One study found that waiting times for treatment average 43 days, and after three months on a waiting list, more than one-third of individuals still had not been connected to a treatment provider.6 Michigan citizens are literally dying waiting for treatment. Additional resources are necessary to educate the public and ensure services are accessible and affordable for those who need them.
Outcomes for substance use treatment are as effective as outcomes for other chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and asthma.7 Studies indicate that people who receive treatment decrease their substance use, criminal activity, and drug- and alcohol-related medical visits, while increasing employment and income.8 Research also shows that treatment is cost-effective. Every dollar invested in addiction treatment programs yields a return of between four to seven dollars in reduced drug-related crime and criminal justice costs; when savings related to healthcare are included, total savings can exceed costs by a ratio of twelve to one.9
Michigan House Bill 5085 offers a practical solution to the addiction epidemic by providing sustainable, dedicated funding for substance use services. The bill would amend the Michigan Liquor Control Code to allow a portion of tax revenue to be distributed to community mental health agencies for the administration and delivery of evidence-based prevention and treatment programs. Last year alone, the bill would have brought in an additional $14,550,000 in funding.10 This level of investment could yield over $170 million in criminal justice savings and healthcare costs.
The fight against addiction is not a partisan issue. Alcohol and drug misuse and related disorders are devastating individuals, families, and communities across Michigan. As social workers, we have a professional mandate to engage in social and political action to address this public health crisis. We must act now. The bill has already passed with broad support in the House but is now stalled in committee. Please contact Senator Mike Shirkey, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health Policy, and urge him to push this bill forward (517-373-5932, email@example.com). HB 5085 will reduce the human and social costs of addiction by expanding evidence-based prevention programs, increasing access to treatment, and supporting long-term recovery. Improved outcomes for those affected by addiction will benefit Michigan communities, the economy, and society at large.
By Emily Pasman
1 Salam, 2017
2 Salam, 2017
3 Kaiser Family Foundation, 2018
4 Roelofs, 2018
5 SAMHSA, 2009
6 Democratic Staff of the Senate Committee on Finance, 2016
7 SAMHSA, 2009
8 SAMHSA, 2009
9 Department of Health and Human Services, 2016
10 McInerney, Coffin, & Koorstra, 2018
- Democratic Staff of the Senate Committee on Finance. (2016). Dying waiting for treatment: The opioid use disorder treatment gap and the need for funding. Washington, DC.
- Kaiser Family Foundation. (2018). Opioid overdose deaths and opioid overdose deaths as a percent of all drug overdose deaths. Retrieved from https://www.kff.org/other/state-indicator/opioid-overdose-deaths
- McInerney, J., Coffin, M., & Koorstra, K. (2018, May 9). Legislative analysis: Use of general fund revenue for substance use disorder treatment. Retrieved from http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2017-2018/billanalysis/House/pdf/2017-HLA-5085-A8264070.pdf
- Roelofs, T. (2018, March 13). Michigan falls short in frontline treatment for opioid crisis. The Bridge. Retrieved from https://bridgemi.com/quality-life/michigan-falls-short-frontline-treatment-opioid-crisis
- Salam, M. (2017, October 26). The opioid epidemic: A crisis years in the making. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/26/us/opioid-crisis-public-health-emergency.html
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2009). Briefing on substance use treatment and recovery in the United States. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/partnersforrecovery/docs/Briefing_Substance_Use_Treatment.pdf
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2016). Facing addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s report on alcohol, drugs, and health. Washington, DC.