This was originally published for Hazelden Betty Ford’s monthly Recovery Advocacy Update. If you’d like to receive our advocacy emails, subscribe today.
Curation with occasional commentary by Jeremiah Gardner
📕 READ: As tragic as our overdose epidemic has been for two decades, and as acute as the broader addiction and mental health crises have grown in recent years, the most challenging times may still be ahead. New research this week from UCLA found that adolescent overdose deaths increased exponentially in 2020 and 2021, the biggest spikes ever, due to fentanyl and the ever-more-poisonous drug supply. Meanwhile, the CDC recently warned of a steep decline in teen mental health, with more than 4 in 10 surveyed telling the health agency they felt “persistently sad or hopeless.” Another survey found that nearly half of parents say their children have struggled with mental health challenges during the pandemic while even more say their children fell behind academically. Meanwhile, we’re seeing what the New Yorker described as a “mystifying rise” in child suicide, and a new long-term study out of the University of Michigan found that most adolescents with severe substance use disorders do not “mature” out of them, as some have previously posited. To confront the health issues incubating in our schools, more teachers are getting trained in mental health, and some schools are eyeing later start times to enhance mental health through extra sleep. But it appears we are still on the front end of this and will need to do much more. Our own Dr. Sara Polley offered some thoughts on this important topic earlier in the year, and they are worth revisiting in light of the recent news.
⌨️ TAKE ACTION, CALIFORNIANS: Readers in The Golden State, help us persuade state legislators to require standards for addiction treatment counseling. Across the U.S., wide variations exist in regulatory requirements for facilities, programs and people in the substance use disorder treatment field. In California, a current absence of standards and required qualifications for counselors has resulted in people with substance use disorders experiencing wide variations in quality of care. In no other area of health care would this be acceptable, and it shouldn’t be in addiction treatment. This is why California SB 992 is urgently needed. The bill would require the licensure of addiction treatment counselors — an important step in ensuring that people with substance use disorders in California can rely on quality care, delivered by qualified professionals, in their time of greatest need. Californians: take action now!
📕 READ: Disappointing to see a federal appeals court overturn the landmark Wit v. United Behavioral Health (UBH) ruling, which in 2019 was thought to be a turning point in efforts to hold insurers accountable for discriminating against people with mental health and addiction challenges. The Kennedy Forum, leaders in the fight for parity, called the reversal “devastating.”
📺 WATCH: Really fantastic panel discussion following the Chicago premiere of Tipping the Pain Scale, the new award-winning feature documentary film about six people in the addiction and recovery world who are making a difference.
📕 READ: The Wall Street Journal scrutinized digital companies who seized on looser pandemic rules for prescribing ADHD drugs like Adderall. Some workers at the companies said they felt pressure to provide the medications. In response, one reader sent us this question: “Did we learn nothing from the Sacklers?” … What are your thoughts?
📕 READ: Interesting argument for not calling addiction a “family disease.”
📕 READ: A father-son duo in Boston has developed a smartphone-based contingency management program for people in a recovery process. According to this report, their app has won over some insurers and helped persuade the HHS Office of Inspector General to issue a new opinion enabling Medicaid reimbursements for app-based contingency management programs.
📺 WATCH: Congressman Tim Ryan — a member of the Congressional Addiction, Treatment, and Recovery Caucus — interviewed award-winning actor Michael Keaton about his role in the Hulu series Dopesick.
📕 READ: We will miss Pete Orput, a county attorney in Minnesota and champion for recovery who passed away April 3.
📕 READ: Oregon voters approved a ballot measure to decriminalize hard drugs after being told it was a way to establish and fund addiction recovery centers that would offer people aid instead of incarceration. Yet in the first year only 1% of people who received citations for possessing controlled substances asked for help via a new hotline.
📕 READ: In Oregon, 30% of current jobs in the addiction and recovery workforce are unfilled. That’s according to a survey from the Oregon Council for Behavioral Health.
📕 READ: R.I.P. Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters.
📕 READ: The National Institute on Drug Abuse is inviting feedback on its draft NIDA Racial Equity Initiative Action Plan, an effort to organize and refocus the Institute’s efforts around the goal of addressing the impact of structural racism on addiction science and to take action to promote racial equity in NIDA’s workplace, workforce, and research portfolio.
📕 READ: Colorado’s governor OK’d weed license plates. A bit of a head scratcher promoting an adult substance in a way so visible to all, including kids. Hard to imagine nicotine plates. Or whiskey plates. Wait …
📕 READ: A Chicago-area community college is now offering an associate’s degree in cannabis studies.
📕 READ: Law enforcement seizures of pills containing illicit fentanyl increased dramatically between January 2018 and December 2021, according to a new study.
📕 READ: A new study found that alcoholism is linked to 232 million missed work days per year in the U.S. Pretty powerful case for companies supporting workers who struggle with alcohol use disorders.
📕 READ: “Come for coffee, leave with hope.” Great feature on a new java house in North Dakota creating a space for community members to embrace recovery.
📕 READ: The U.S. Senate voted to expand research into cannabis just a couple weeks after the U.S. House passed more expansive legislation that also proposed to study weed. It remains to be seen if the two bills are close enough that both chambers will be able to draft a final bill that can clear Congress.
📕 READ: The U.S. House voted to federally legalize marijuana, but the bill faces long odds in the Senate and a possible veto by President Biden.
📕 READ: Author, advocate, historian and deep thinker William C. White emerged from a multi-month break from his blog to write a tribute to Texas Tech’s Dr. Tom McGovern, a recovery advocate and pioneer in the professionalization of addiction counseling, who died March 21 at age 86.