War on Opiates: Getting to Know the CARA Bill
The CARA bill, also known as the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) of 2015, is designed to provide states and municipalities with resources aimed toward fighting the epidemic of heroin and prescription opioid addiction. The bipartisan bill, introduced by Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), touts the importance of a multifaceted approach to recovery that targets the specific needs of individuals and communities.
What’s Included in the CARA Bill?
Broadly, CARA includes measures to expand awareness of and education about opiate addiction, provide tools to first responders to prevent overdose, expand recovery resources for incarcerated individuals, provide new disposal sites for prescription medications, promote evidence-based interventions for drug addiction, and strengthen tools to monitor prescriptions for often abused drugs. Among other measures, drug addiction will be destigmatized by the removal of the question about prior drug use on the Federal Application for Financial Student Aid. There are also specialized services designated for women, families, and veterans.
How Will This Affect States and Communities?
Under CARA, states and municipalities may be eligible for up to $80 million in funding to target heroin and prescription drug abuse. These funds can be used to create new or expand existing nonprofit treatment centers, to develop education programs about the dangers of opiates, and to strengthen support for recovery among employers, schools, and communities. In addition, the bill calls for expanded availability of naloxone, a life-saving drug that can counteract the effect of an opiate overdose.
What Are the Criticisms of CARA
Opponents of this bill are concerned about the potential costs, the effectiveness of its measures, and the logistics of implementation.
What Groups Are Supportive of This Bill?
Supporting organizations for CARA include the National District Attorneys Association, the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors, Faces and Voices of Recovery, the National Council for Behavioral Health, and the Major County Sheriffs’ Association.
Why Is the CARA Bill So Important?
The CARA bill is important because of the epidemic of opiate abuse in the United States, which comes at a staggering personal and financial cost. According to data from the American Society of Addiction Medicine, 1.9 million Americans are addicted to opiates, with another half million addicted to heroin–and what’s more, about 75 percent of those addicted to opiates eventually switch to heroin. More than 100 people die from drug overdoses each day in the US. The cost to the system is also quite high. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug addiction costs $11 billion for the health care system annually and $193 billion for the country as a whole.
To learn more about this bill and to let your state senator know that you support its implementation, you can visit Faces and Voices of Recovery online at http://www.facesandvoicesofrecovery.org/. If you or a family member are addicted to opiates, talk with your doctor. He or she can recommend an inpatient treatment facility that can help you move forward with your life, drug free.