I am angry. I have been watching the opioid crisis “epidemic” for quite a while now. Congress just passed legislation to reform everything on opioids. I have read the plan and I see so many issues with what happened. I am deeply concerned at how it is going to affect chronic illness patients and I believes it shows exactly how the country views mental health and chronic illness as a whole.
The money spent is a stopgap. The call was for $20 billion dollars and the bill didn’t even get half that. Quoting the Washington Post, “Yet many public health advocates and experts say it doesn’t offer the one thing truly needed: The massive amount of funding needed to fully combat a crisis that deeply affects rural and urban communities across America.” It goes on to say how little prepared we are for mental health in the medical system. This is not the overhaul we need to fix the broken mental care that so many desperately need. This bill will only help people in the form of a grant which may or may not be available to everyone. Grants are competitive and once used up, there is no more help until more money comes.
Congress also had to deal with a little known rule known as Institutions for Mental Diseases exclusion rule. It had prohibited Medicaid from reimbursing substance abuse centers with a certain number of beds (16 or more) for patients with mental illness. Why this obscure rule that is decades old shows exactly how broken and old the system has become. An even bigger concern of mine is who is the oversight on this money now to be released? Are we watching were this money is going? Is it even being used properly? I know close friends who get run through mental health “mills” that don’t treat patients and are more concerned with getting money for the number of patients they process. This is going to feed into this broken system and we are going to see a rise in the number of claims in an effort to get a piece of this pie.
In the same thought, the number of opioid addictions are declining, however heroin overdose is rising. The CDC says that in 2017, out of 72,000 overdose deaths, 30,000 were caused by synthetic opioids. This is not prescribed medications. This is not for the chronic pain users. This is a synthetic compound that is in laced heroin and is an illegal drug. Almost all the chronic illness patients I know are responsible people and do not abuse their medication. These are the statistics that are being used against the people that actually need help.
I look at these actions and I know it is an important election year. I feel this is mainly a political grandstand and we are showing that we are not serious about reform. Chronic illness patients are once again overlooked and not even considered in the bill. It focuses on how opioids are a gateway to addiction. Congress and the general public view us now as heroin users and we need to be treated for our addiction and not looking for ways to help us except with small mental health improvements. That also shows they believe that chronic pain and other similar afflictions are viewed as mental health issues and not a disease. We can view addiction as a disease but not something like Fibromyalgia, that is all in your head.
Please senators, congress, anyone in government, come live in my head or body for a day. I have never wanted to do this before but I wish you could feel the pain me and so many others are in daily so you could understand.