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The least you need to know about Clinton’s addiction policy

September 9, 2015
by Julie Miller, Editor in Chief
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As presidential candidates vie for position this fall, the skirmishes could include a little head-butting on the best policies to address America’s chronic addiction issues. While the idea of tackling addiction is not terribly partisan, the policy specifics could be. Candidate Hillary Clinton outlined her proposal this month.

And it would seem that Clinton’s Initiative to Combat America’s Deadly Epidemic of Drug and Alcohol Addiction isn’t an off-the-cuff effort to give the appearance of paying attention to the issue. Clinton has spent some time on the policy, including a discussion with behavioral health leaders at a dinner in Iowa several months ago. Staffers also followed up separately over the summer.

Anticipate that other candidates will deliver their talking points in upcoming debates.

How much is the Clinton initiative going to cost?

She places it at $10 billion over 10 years. Of that, $2.5 billion is allocated to increase the substance abuse block grant.

“I was relieved to see a 15 percent increase suggested for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant, which has seen few significant increases in the $1.8 billion in funding in recent years, even while the substance abuse, addiction and overdose rates have been growing exponentially,” Deni Carise, chief clinical officer of Recovery Centers of America, told me today.

The remaining $7.5 billion would be directed toward state partnership funding to support Clinton’s five identified goals (below).

When considering the prevalence of addiction, Carise says the new funding would work out to an additional $300 per patient per year—$750,000 divided by 2.5 million people who get treatment—or approximately $36.59 annually for each of the 20 million people who are not getting treatment. 

What are the goals contained in Clinton’s policy?

There are five categories of focus:

  • Prevention—directs support of school programs
  • Treatment and Recovery—pledges to increase the behavioral healthcare work force; expand inpatient and outpatient treatment; and enforce parity
  • First Responders—calls for more naloxone access
  • Prescribers—calls for use of prescription drug monitoring programs
  • Criminal Justice Reform—aims to encourage alternatives to incarceration and more collaboration with public health programs

How will these policies be accomplished?

Clinton aims to launch new federal/state partnerships backed by federal incentives. For every $1 a state commits to comprehensive plans related to the goals outlined in the initiative, the federal government would kick in an additional $4.

What is the industry’s reaction?

Generally positive so far.

“It was great to hear Hillary Clinton say something those of us in substance abuse treatment, prevention and policy have been saying for years: ‘drug and alcohol addiction is a disease, not a moral failing,’” Carise says.



Julie Miller

Editor in Chief

Julie Miller


Julie Miller has more than 14 years of experience observing, analyzing and reporting on various...

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