With Election Day approaching, you may be encountering political candidates campaigning for various federal, state and local positions. If addiction is an important issue to you or your family, you may want to find out where a specific candidate stands on the issue of addiction.
Unlike many issues, on which candidates are likely to vote or already have a position based on ideology or party unity, addiction can be a bipartisan, uniting issue. Addiction affects all different types of constituents and greatly impacts a variety of systems, including health, economic, criminal justice, child welfare, housing, etc. If addiction isn’t already part of a candidate’s platform, it should be! The more candidates hear from you and your fellow constituents about a problem, the more likely they are to make that issue a priority.
Below are some prompting questions that you can use when speaking with a candidate:
1. Candidates are asked about their positions on a number of different issues. Find out where addiction fits into their platform. Be sure to share with the candidate that, as a voter, it is a priority for you. If you feel comfortable, tell them why and share some of your own story. Learn more about how to share your story.
- Questions for candidates: Is addiction one of your priorities? How does it rank for you among other issues?
2. Due to stigma, addiction has historically been treated as a crime rather than a disease. A public health approach is critical.
- Questions for candidates: Will your approach treat addiction as a criminal justice issue or a health/public health issue? Why?
3. Addiction has been woefully underfunded for decades and current funding levels are insufficient despite recent increases from the federal government. Significant, long-term funding is critical to make necessary investments in the infrastructure needed to prevent and treat addiction and support those in recovery. States and localities that are party to litigation against the opioid manufacturers and distributors are likely to receive funds from the settlement agreement and will be responsible for determining how those funds are spent.
- Questions for candidates: What steps will you take to make addiction a funding priority? Will you vote to increase addiction-related funding? What are your priorities for how federal dollars and opioid settlement funds are used?
4. When families are involved, informed and supported, the outcomes for those with addiction are better. Yet, family support services receive little to no government support, often are not covered by insurance, and come at an additional cost to families. This makes it difficult for families to help their loved ones seek treatment and prevention services or navigate other social service systems.
- Question for candidates: How will you support/advocate for families impacted by addiction?
5. Our country’s treatment of addiction as a criminal justice matter has had a disproportionate and devastating impact on communities of color. Policies and structural changes are needed to promote a public health approach that equitably serves families and communities of color.
- Question for candidates: How will you promote equity and address racial inequalities caused by “War on Drugs” policies?
6. Harm reduction strategies such as increasing access to naloxone and implementing syringe exchange programs are critical to reducing overdose deaths and other harmful consequences of substance use. Despite the importance of harm reduction strategies, many individuals are opposed due to stigma and misconceptions.
- Question for candidates: Do you support harm reduction strategies? If not, why not?
7. States that have legalized marijuana for adult recreational use should have legal and regulatory protections in place to protect youth from the harms associated with commercialization (e.g., restrictions related to packaging and labeling, marketing and advertising, locations of sale and use). While marijuana legalization is currently taking place at the state level, federal legislation has been introduced and local officials are often involved in implementation of state legalization laws.
- Question for candidate: How will you ensure that youth are protected from the harms of commercialization?
8. Most people with substance use disorder do not receive treatment, and those that do often receive poor quality care. This is largely because the addiction treatment system has historically been sidelined and siloed from the mainstream health care system and therefore not subject to the same level of regulatory oversight as other health care providers. One glaring example is the under-utilization of FDA-approved medications for treatment of opioid use disorder because of stigma and strict regulatory requirements around how they are prescribed and dispensed.
- Questions for candidates: How will you ensure that individuals and families are able to access affordable, high quality treatment? Do you support expanding access to medications for opioid use disorder and how?
9. Cost is a significant barrier because treatment is unaffordable when not covered by insurance. Individuals in need of treatment are often denied care by insurance companies despite federal and state laws requiring coverage of these benefits.
- Question for candidates: Do you support initiatives to make treatment more affordable, such as increased enforcement of parity and other insurance coverage laws?
10. There are over 23 million Americans who are in recovery from substance use disorder, and many face significant obstacles related to employment and housing due to past criminal justice involvement. Recovery support services, such as recovery housing and peer support services, are often unregulated and underfunded.
- Question for candidates: How will you empower individuals in recovery?
If you are interested in learning more about advocating on the issue of addiction, please see our Advocacy Toolkit!
***Partnership to End Addiction is nonpartisan and does not support or oppose the nomination or election of any candidate.***