Juana believes that the substance abuse crisis and specifically the opioid abuse crisis is one of the Health Care Emergencies of our time. It is devastating families and communities across our country, it is taking more than 60,000 lives a year in the US, and in Massachusetts we lose people at more than twice the national rate. In the 3rd District last year, approximately 200 people died of overdoses.
The key to solving this crisis is to treat addiction as a chronic disease. Just like any other chronic illness such as diabetes, hepatitis, cancer, or HIV/AIDS, we cannot solve this by blaming or criminalizing patients. Instead, we need to destigmatize addiction and educate our population, provide access to comprehensive and individualized treatment, empower health professionals to treat with all available options, and use the judicial system to go after the bad actors instead of the victims of this crisis.
To do all these things, we will need to provide sufficient funding for this crisis that costs the US an estimated $50-$100 billion per year. That’s why Juana supports Senator Warren’s CARE Act to provide $10 billion in funding per year for the coming decade.
Destigmatize and Decriminalize: Coming out of the Shadows of Society
In order to successfully fight this crisis, we need those suffering to come out of the shadows through destigmatizing and decriminalizing addiction. We need to start a movement that empowers current and recovering addicts to speak openly about their struggles and encourages treatment and support, rather than struggling in the shadows.
As our Congresswoman, Juana will:
· Advocate for a nation-wide destigmatizing program so that the public stops seeing addiction as a moral failing and understands that it is a chronic (brain) disease that needs to be treated as such.
· Lead efforts to decriminalize addiction so that addicts have a path towards treatment instead of prison.
· Lead efforts for Good Samaritan Laws so that providing help to those in need never leads to criminal prosecution of those who alert the first responders.
· Advocate for primary school education programs so that children at primary school learn about the dangers of addiction.
Emergency Measures: Providing Immediate Relief Now
The Opioid Crisis will not be solved overnight, no matter how much funding we provide. Therefore, we must take emergency measures, even some controversial ones, which save lives now and keep those addicted and their communities safe.
As our Congresswoman Juana will:
· Advocate for and fund needle exchange programs and supervised injection sites, to counter the spread of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C as well as reduce the chance of overdoses and preventable deaths, while supporting interactions with health workers as a first step towards treatment.
· Advocate for and fund universal availability of Narcan for first-responders.
Structural Solutions: Providing Individualized, Comprehensive Treatment
Addiction is a long-term disease with relapse never far away, especially in the first year of sobriety. Therefore, we should make comprehensive treatment available that does not just treat the physical addiction but ensures that there is ongoing support after detox to increase the chance of success.
As our Congresswoman Juana will support funding for:
· Comprehensive Long-Term Treatment which includes detox, in-patient care, outpatient care, 12-step programs, and more so that everyone has access to a life of sobriety.
· Medical Assisted Treatment with methadone, buprenorphine, and naloxone by trained professionals to ensure that patients have access to safe alternatives and stay away from fentanyl, heroin, and other dangerous street drugs.
· Continued research on the effectiveness of the diverse range of short-term and long-term treatment options so that we can put our resources where they have the most impact.
Empowering Health Professionals and Prosecuting Bad Actors: Regulating and Legislating for Results
Our “War on Drugs” is not working. We should treat Americans who are addicted, not jail them. Instead, our law enforcement should hold those accountable who are responsible for the creation and perpetuation of this crisis. That includes going after those in our healthcare industry who have irresponsibly pushed opioids while being aware of the dangerous consequences.
As our Congresswoman Juana will:
· Fight for Meaningful Regulations and Legislation to ensure that trained health professionals acting in good faith are not artificially restricted in how many patients they can see and how they can use Medically Assisted Treatment, while barring bad actors from prescribing dangerous amounts of drugs to vulnerable patients in danger of addiction.
· Support Prosecution to the full extent of the law of bad actors responsible for pushing prescription opioids on unsuspecting patients out of profit motives to stop the increase of addiction. These include big pharmaceutical companies, distributors, and complicit doctors.
· Support Prosecution of traffickers and large-scale sellers of illegal and dangerous drugs such as fentanyl and heroin which endanger our children and those struggling with addiction.