(Article reposted from Young People in Recovery)
I wonder how President-elect Donald Trump will respond to our nation’s top public health matter, addiction recovery. As a husband, father, brother, son, uncle, budding entrepreneur completing my Executive MBA, and a person in long-term recovery, I wonder if he will have the strategic fortitude to know he MUST surround himself with the talented and extraordinary leaders that have the lived experience in this public health matter. If one was tasked with constructing a new building, they would hire leaders that had the unique abilities to undertake such a project. The addiction crisis is no different; we must retain leaders that know how to bring forth comprehensive solutions for addiction through supporting resources for prevention, treatment, and recovery.
I wonder if President-elect Trump will associate himself with leaders in long-term recovery, especially in positions like the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which is within the Executive Office of the President. Given his background in business and his appreciation for good branding, will “recovery” be a brand or trademark of Trump’s presidency? Is recovery a cause that he is willing to stand behind? Because for the millions of Americans in long-term recovery and their families, this is not only a cause but a lifestyle. Recovery engulfs a family and community and transforms it to achieve extraordinary things. Recovery exemplifies what this nation stands for: resiliency, ingenuity, hard work, and opportunity. These are the foundational pillars upon which our country was created. Literally, we are the land of opportunity. Is this not what the president-elect meant by, “Make America Great Again”, a place where everyone deserves an opportunity? Is this not the epitome of what this nation and our nation’s leaders need to represent?
We have seen Director Botticelli make great progress in this public health matter. For many, Director Botticelli was not the “Drug Czar” but the “Recovery Czar” for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, because he is a person in long-term recovery himself. We also saw a glimmer of hope in stimulating recovery as a permanent fixture through the Recovery Branch within the Office of National Drug Control Policy. However, the future of this branch is uncertain, so we cannot put our confidence in the Recovery Branch alone.
We must maintain the momentum we have created as a nation, for the reality is, everyone knows someone who needs recovery. And that need extends to the highest places of our government and within the most rural of our communities. If President-elect Trump truly wants to “Make America Great Again”, he will ensure recovery is one of his chief brands for his leadership to embody. Whether we get to see our next “Drug Czar” as another “Recovery Czar”, or the Recovery Branch is resurrected at the Office of National Drug Control Policy, or the initiative comes through Health and Human Services, or perhaps is grafted into the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, recovery cannot be left behind.
President Obama created momentum in recovery when he made history with the signing of the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act (CARA) and the signing of the 21st Century Cures Act, which comes with $1 billion to combat the epidemic. This momentum must continue. Although $1 billion has been invested, this is an issue that represents hundreds of billions of dollars in economic impact every year; we must invest more. If the president-elect were to look at this issue like one of his many businesses, then the choice would be easy. If he were to consider the hundreds of billions of dollars a year market analysis of the recovery industry, he would realize that making a measurable difference cannot be achieved with only $1 billion. He would most certainly deploy more capital if he wanted to make a significant impact in the market. Furthermore, more money for addiction recovery is not simply a sunk cost or a debt-servicing strategy; it is an investment. When investing in recovery supports and expanding prevention and treatment programs, we are saving money within the healthcare system, the criminal justice system, and we are saving lives. We are also empowering more Americans to rejoin the workforce, complete or continue their education, or even start the next great business. Bottom line, President-elect Trump MUST utilize leaders who are in long-term recovery for meaningful positions like the next “Drug Czar”. He must also construct a substantive Recovery Branch and invest more money into recovery; it’s just good business.
I had the unique opportunity to sit with President Obama while he confirmed that addiction recovery was not a moral failing but rather a public health matter. I hope that our nation gets to hear our next President echo that same sentiment. This is not a Democratic priority, nor a Republican priority; this is a priority for all Americans. This is an issue that literally touches every single community in this nation.