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July 22, 2016: An Important Day in SUD Advocacy History

Contribution by NAADAC Public Policy Committee

July 22, 2020, marked the four-year anniversary of the day the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 was signed into law. The bill was introduced by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) and Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (WI) as the first major federal addiction act in 40 years.

When the bill was first developed in 2014, it received limited support on Capitol Hill, though NAADAC provided steadfast backing right away. In March 2016, the Senate passed CARA on a 94-1 vote. In the House, however, CARA stalled and a package of related opioid bills was passed instead. Because the House package, approved almost unanimously in May, covered the same legislative territory as the Senate-passed CARA, both chambers agreed to combine all of the bills.

On July 8, the full House voted 407-5 to accept the combined bill. Senators followed suit with a 92-2 vote on July 13, sending the bill to President Obama. The President signed it into law on July 22, despite misgivings about funding.

A brief summary of the Act:

  • Improved awareness efforts, including measures to expand the educational efforts among teens, parents, caretakers, and senior populations to prevent the use of opioids, methamphetamines, and heroin and promote recovery and treatment options available for them.
  • Making naloxone available to enforcement agencies and other responders for overdose reversal to save lives.
  • Investments in resources to identify imprisoned individuals suffering from opioid/drug addiction disorders by working with criminal justice representatives and offer evidence-based treatment.
  • Strengthen prescription drug monitoring programs to help states monitor and track prescription drug diversion and to help at-risk individuals access services.
  • Launch an evidence-based treatment and intervention programs for opioid and heroin treatment.
  • Launch a medication-assisted treatment and intervention demonstration program.

There was little press coverage about the bill despite it being an important vicotory to our field. NAADAC, the NAADAC Public Policy Committee, Pollenselli, and countless others worked toward this milestone. This lack of publicity was sad, but it reaffirmed that WE must continue fighting for our profession and our clients. Still we fight for the underrepresented and we fight against the stigma of addiction. There is no questioning that our work for CARA and countless other initiatives was and is necessary.  WE make an impact and we look forward to the progress we will make in the next four years.