1. The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States
The incoming Trump administration presents an unpredictable atmosphere when it comes to health policy. Although he vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on his first day in office, passing legislation to replace ACA is not so easy. Even tougher will be the transition plan to get the U.S. healthcare system from where it is today to where GOP leaders want it to be.
Many behavioral health executives were counting on Hillary Clinton being elected and her administration investing substantially in proposed health reforms, including $5 billion for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics and $10 billion to address substance use disorders.
What Trump will ultimately want to accomplish in the name of public health is yet to be determined.
2. The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) passing with overwhelming bipartisan support
In the divisive political climate of 2016, forward motion on any legislation seems like a miracle. The fact that a bill to address addiction received bipartisan support and was ultimately signed into law more than demonstrates the impact substance use disorders have in every jurisdiction. Congressional leaders not only endorsed CARA, some even used it as platform to gain re-election, as Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) did.
Although CARA did not appropriate funding in its final language—a major sticking point for Democrats—it has thus far received $7 million of its authorized $181 million.
3. The surgeon general’s report on addiction
Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, released a mammoth report in November, noting that there are more people with substance use disorders in this country than people with cancer. It’s a shocking statistic for many to digest.
With the onus on a federal official to gather such information, the document helps to extend the knowledge base about addiction outside of the traditional industry circles and into everyday America. The report not only aims to change the national dialog, it serves as a one-stop shop for framing addiction as a public health issue, collecting the evidence and making recommendations.
Among the more surprising suggestions, Murthy calls for research into the potential benefits of medicinal marijuana.
4. Marijuana legalization
Nine states, including the District of Columbia, now allow for recreational use of marijuana. Additionally, 28 states allow for medical use. Although pot is not legal as far as the federal government is concerned, states are looking at decriminalization as a way to reduce resources spent on law enforcement and to raise money through taxes on marijuana sales. Colorado, for example, realized $44 million in related tax revenue in 2014.