President Obama said Tuesday more attention is being paid to addiction as a health issue now that it is seen as an increasing threat to white communities, The Washington Post reports.
Speaking at the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta, Obama said addiction should be seen as a health issue, instead of simply a criminal problem.
“We have to be honest about this,” he said. “Part of what has made it previously difficult to emphasize treatment over the criminal justice system has to do with the fact that the populations affected in the past were viewed as or stereotypically identified as poor, minority. As a consequence, the thinking was it is often a character flaw in those individuals who live in those communities, and it’s not our problem that they’re just being locked up,” Obama said. “One of the things that’s changed in this opioids debate is a recognition that this reaches everybody.”
The White House released a plan Tuesday to improve access to drug treatment. The plan is designed to ensure millions more Americans have the same level of coverage for substance abuse and mental health treatment as they do for other medical conditions–known as parity.
The plan includes the creation of an inter-agency task force to implement and enforce parity protections for health coverage people receive through their employers, or through plans purchased under the Affordable Care Act.
Other initiatives to increase access to drug treatment include a proposed rule by the Department of Health and Human Services to double the current patient limit of 100 for qualified doctors who prescribed buprenorphine for opioid addiction.
Earlier this month, the Obama Administration announced it plans to spend $94 million to improve and expand delivery of substance abuse services in health centers. The funding will focus on treatment of opioid use disorders in underserved populations.