Making a Point –
July 24, 2020 – By Ryan Hampton. Before coronavirus, America already faced record numbers of deaths from a different epidemic. Over 350 people died every day from an illness just as deadly as COVID-19. This disease, which is more widespread than any flu, hides in plain sight in one third of all American households. It affects 27 million people, every day. It’s substance use disorder, and it’s killing Americans at record rates. In spite of these overwhelming numbers, policy makers cannibalize recovery funding to plug holes in our fractured health system. The stigma of addiction ensures that public servants feel justified leaving “addicts” to die, while earmarking funds that are meant for our community for coronavirus instead. Nearly 71,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2019, and experts all agree that number will continue to rise in 2020. New data shows that the brief improvement in survival rates has been reversed, and now we are hitting a new record. This resurgence of substance related deaths coincides with the COVID-19 crisis. That’s no coincidence: the coronavirus pandemic is driving those death rates up, and the White House and many experts believe it’s only going to get worse. I have spent months advocating and contacting several behavioral health and public health leaders and every one of them told me their hands are tied: any money for healthcare is dedicated to COVID-19 now. Yet, where was this sense of urgency two years ago, or five years ago, or ten? Recovery advocates and harm reduction specialists made recommendations back then that would save billions of dollars and millions of lives now, whether a person is facing COVID or cocaine addiction. At the moment of truth, the recovery community is failed once again, by a system that is designed not to save us, but to sacrifice us because our lives always come second.