“We know and we believe that prevention works. It’s absolutely critical,” said Mary Lou Leary, Deputy Director of State, Local and Tribal Affairs for the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). That message was driven home time and time again during the Congressional Addiction Forum, held on Wednesday, April 29 on Capitol Hill.
The event, “Advancing Prevention, Treatment and Recovery for Youth,” brought together various national, state and local experts to discuss a comprehensive strategy to address youth drug abuse and addiction, particularly as it relates to prescription drug abuse and heroin addiction. The session was hosted by a bipartisan group of members of Congress.
The Forum included three panels – one on prevention, one on treatment and recovery and one on families. The prevention panel was moderated by CADCA Chairman and CEO Gen. Arthur Dean and featured Dr. Mark Wolfson, Professor of Social Sciences and Health Policy at Wake Forest School of Medicine; Amy Haskins, public health educator and Project Director of the Jackson County Anti-Drug Coalition; DeJohn Cartier Taylor, a youth leader with the Chesterfield SAFE Coalition; and Sabrina Lee Sanchez with the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.
“The truth is effective substance abuse prevention can yield major economic dividends. Every dollar invested in prevention can lead to savings between $2 and $20. Despite this, for too long prevention in our country has been underutilized and underfunded,” Gen. Dean told the audience.
Dr. Wolfson highlighted the effectiveness of the coalition model and the Drug-Free Communities program. “DFC is a multi- faceted approach, taking it to scale par excellence,” he said. He cited the example of our country’s tobacco use problem and how through a comprehensive approach that included changing local policies and practices, the U.S. successfully lowered tobacco use rates among youth and adults.
Haskins, whose coalition serves Jackson County, W.Va., one of the counties hit hardest by the opiate epidemic in that state, shared the comprehensive approach her coalition used to successfully reduce prescription drug abuse and drug overdoses.
“Through a small federal investment [from the Drug-Free Communities program], our coalition is saving lives each and every day,” she said, adding that there have been no overdose deaths in Jackson County since 2010.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), one of the co-sponsors of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), agreed that prevention is an important piece of the solution. “I’m happy to support Narcan but I want to get to the point where we don’t have to administer Narcan,” she said. “After hearing about what you did on tobacco, I’m convinced that we make a difference on the heroin problem.”
Remarks and a video of the Congressional Addiction Forum will soon be available at: https://addictionpolicy.org/.