When Michael Botticelli, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, told the NatCon 2016 audience that 47,000 people died from drug overdoes in 2014, he knew he wasn’t telling anyone anything new. However, he said what is new is the federal funding increases now directed toward combatting addiction.
The president’s 2017 budget includes $1.1 billion in new funding that aims to close the treatment gap.
“We need all of you to advocate for additional dollars,” Botticelli said.
He also pointed to a recent trend of law enforcement joining with communities to direct more people toward treatment and away from the justice system. For example, on a recent visit to Toledo, Ohio, Botticelli heard local police comment that they see a greater need for more treatment services, not more officers on the beat. The NatCon audience responded with hearty applause.
“It is truly gratifying to hear those in criminal justice say ‘we can’t arrest our way out of this problem,’” he said.
He reminded the audience that while more studies are needed to provide evidence on what works, science and data alone are insufficient to drive public policy. Rather, people drive public policy, and advocacy is the behavioral health industry’s most important tool.
“Out of this tragedy we have been given a moment in time to address these issues once and for all,” he said. “This is our time.”