White House Announces Year One Drug Policy Priorities

It’s been a busy few months in the world of addiction recovery advocacy. In April, the Biden administration laid out their first year priorities for recovery. The statement acknowledges the wide impact of the overdose and addiction epidemic, and how COVID-19 has exacerbated the effects. The White House designated addressing the epidemic as an urgent priority for Biden’s administration.

In March, the President signed into law the American Rescue Plan, which appropriated nearly $4 billion to enable the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Health Resources and Services Administration to expand access to vital behavioral health services. The plan’s seven commitments are:

  • Expanding access to evidence-based treatment, including medication to support recovery from opioid use disorder. The administration also intends to complete the recommendations of the 2016 Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity Task Force by lowering barriers to treatment and prescribed medication.
  • Advancing racial justice in the federal government’s approach to drug policy by identifying culturally competent, evidence-based practices for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color across the continuum of care that includes prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery services.
  • Enhancing evidence-based harm reduction efforts by supporting syringe exchanges, distributing naloxone, and promoting harm reduction as a valid recovery path.
  • Supporting evidence-based prevention efforts to reduce youth substance use by using evidence-based approaches and identifying opportunities for the Drug-Free Communities Support Program to enhance culturally competent prevention programming.
  • Reducing the supply of illicit substances by working with other nations to curb domestic and international drug production, distribution, and sales.
  • Advancing recovery-ready workplaces and expanding the addiction workforce by lowering barriers to employment for people in recovery and offering vocational training.
  • Expanding access to recovery support services like recovery housing, including certification, payment models, evidence-based practice, and technical assistance. The administration plans to support building a sustainable network of partner organizations that can help people at any stage of their journey.

Finding solutions to the epidemic through a recovery lens, not a criminal justice lens, is innovative and will save lives. Emphasizing evidence-based whole-person care, including healthcare access, employment, mental health needs, and individual identity is crucial to helping Americans survive addiction. The $4 billion earmarked for these priorities show that this recovery bill is more than just words; it is an investment in recovery and a tangible commitment to our community to create meaningful change. The federal government is finally facing its longstanding challenges in ensuring equitable treatment in both health care and criminal justice systems. The White House’s statement is an important step forward in building trust with people and recovery and breaking the stigma that causes so few people to ask for the help they need.