The 2016 U.S. Presidential election is just beginning to gain media attention. A wide variety of different candidates are starting to articulate their visions, and traveling around speaking to potential voters about issues important to them.
Addiction and substance abuse has wreak havoc on many communities and lives, and these issues will present challenges to the next president. One presidential hopeful has already spoken about the issue, hoping to further make it an important part of her campaign.
Speaking to voters
On April 20, 2015, presidential hopeful and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke at a roundtable discussion in Keene, New Hampshire. Meeting with employees for a children's furniture factory, this was her first official event as a candidate in New Hampshire, where the primary will be held in February 2016. They were asked about issues they were concerned about, and one employee mentioned the growing drug problem in her community.
Hillary Clinton called substance abuse a "quiet epidemic," and said she would make the issue, and other mental health issues, a big part of her emerging campaign. She pointed to a recent outbreak of HIV in the small town of Austin, Indiana caused by high levels of drug use and the sharing of needles as an example of why more resources to be spent on drug treatment.
Even though this is a painful issue that many people would rather just ignore, she said, "This isn't something we can just brush under the rug," because ending denial is the only way to deal with the problem.
Speaking to reporters after the event, Clinton further elaborated, "Before I went to Iowa last week I wasn't aware of the depth of feeling people had about substance abuse issues, so here again, I heard it in New Hampshire, so I want people to know that I'm listening." She will work further to find solutions to tackle the issue of substance abuse, revering destructive trends that are destroying the health and lives of so many.
It is hoped that she will continue to think about and draw attention to ways that government can assist, support, and offer resources to preventing substance abuse, and helping addicts get access to the treatment they need.
The challenge ahead
The 2012 National Survey on Drug Use And Health, put out by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, found that 23.1 million Americans need treatment for an addiction problem, but only 2.5 million have access to a facility where they are receiving treatment for recovery.
There are a lot of barriers standing in the way of individuals getting the help they need to overcome their addiction, but anything that can improve access to these services will go a long way towards saving and restoring many lives. Many people simply are unaware of the dangers of addiction, especially of prescription drug misuse that is rising substantially.
So part of the challenge must involve education and outreach, discouraging drug experimentation and addictive patterns, and letting people know treatment for addiction is available. Others may want treatment, but find it too expensive or don't know where to go for help. A number of things can be used to help people gain access to the treatment they need.
Some proposed solutions include making sure health insurance plans cover addiction treatment, increasing the amount of money communities have for mental health and addiction services, and offering treatment as an alternative to jail time for people arrested on drug charges.
Speaking at the event, Clinton pointed out that many people not directly impacted by addiction might think, "Well, that's somebody else's problem. That's not my problem," but that "It is all of our problem." The problem of addiction affects us all, and it must be taken seriously at all levels at our society. The fact a high profile presidential candidate appears to be taking the issue seriously is a cause for hope.