Six months after my son Anthony died from heroin I created a petition on MoveOn.org to urge congress to enact legislation mandating that insurance companies and/or the government pay for a minimum of ninety (90) days of in-patient drug or alcohol rehab. http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/anthonys-act… Experts agree that ninety (90) days is the minimum time necessary to effect real change in an addicted brain and offers a far better chance for a long term recovery than the current system of 21 – 28 days or less.
In the time between Anthony’s death and the creation of the Anthony’s Act petition 2,907 more people died of a drug overdose. At that time 119 people a day were dying from drugs, mostly opioids, a category that includes OxyContin, Lortab, Vicodin and Heroin.
In the fifteen months since I started Anthony’s Act that number has risen from 119 a day to 129 a day. Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where I live and where Anthony died now leads the entire country in overdose deaths of young people, aged 18 – 25.
One hundred twenty-nine people a day is almost 4,000 deaths a month, hundreds more than died in the terrorist attacks on September 11. The last time this many Americans died we invade two countries at a cost of more than four to six trillion dollars.
A fraction of that money would be enough to provide ninety (90) days of in-patient drug or alcohol rehab treatment to every one of the 23 million Americans suffering from addiction, who need and want treatment. If we have the money to pay for war then we have the money to pay for healing.
And paying for healing is not just the humane thing to do, it is also the fiscally responsible thing to do. According to several conservative estimates, every dollar invested in addiction treatment programs yields a return of between $7 and $12 in reduced healthcare costs, drug-related crime, criminal justice costs, and theft.
One hundred twenty-nine people a day means 47,085 a year. That one year total is more than the total number of Americans killed in action in the 29 years of the Viet Nam conflict and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
One hundred twenty-nine people a day is more than the entire population of Marion, Ohio, or Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, or Covina, California, or Dover, Delaware, or Kissimmee, Florida, or East Brunswick, New Jersey, or Annapolis, Maryland. Imagine losing one of these towns every year. Every man, woman and child. Gone. And next year, it’s another town; a bigger one.
One hundred twenty-nine people a day is more than the number who would die if a fully loaded Boeing 757 crashed, with all souls lost, every other day. If that were to happen, all Boeing aircraft would be grounded after the second or third crash and the problem would be fixed in less than a month.
But the problem of overdose deaths is not getting fixed. It’s getting worse. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more people died from drug overdoses in the United States in 2014 than during any previous year on record, most from opioids. And the numbers for 2015 will be even worse.
A big part of the reason the problem of overdose deaths is not getting fixed is because insurance companies refuse to pay for ninety (90) days of in-patient rehab, the type of treatment that has been shown to offer the greatest chance for long term recovery.
We give big oil 37.5 billion in tax subsidies every year. We can continue to do that, or we could provide 90 days of in-patient drug treatment to nearly a million Americans who need and want that care. We spent 12.8 trillion on Wall Street bailouts. The next time a “too big to fail” bank collapses due to its own stupidity we could rescue it or we could decide to value human lives more than financial institutions. The next time a war profiteer incites us to invade another country to fatten his portfolio we can blindly go along, or we can choose life over death.
We have the money. The question is: do we have the will?
Tell Congress you choose people over businesses; you choose life over death. Tell them you want Ninety (90) days of treatment for our family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers suffering from the disease of addiction. Tell them to make Anthony’s Act the law. Sign the petition http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/anthonys-act… now and ask your family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers to sign it as well and to spread the word.
Let’s give those suffering with addiction a real chance at recovery.