Newly signed law is an important step in ending opioid epidemic

Last Friday, President Obama signed a landmark piece of legislation into law. The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) is an important step toward ending our nation’s opioid epidemic. The Alliance is particularly excited about the opportunities to address opioid abuse for people who experience homelessness that this legislation offers communities.

Opioids have become a part of the national discourse as rates of overdose death continue to rise dramatically. And while the epidemic is notable for affecting people from any race, gender, socioeconomic status, or other identifier, its effects are felt in unique and notably harmful ways by people who are experiencing homelessness.

Homeless people with opioid use disorders (OUD) experience significant barriers to treatment. Obstacles include disaffiliation or social isolation, lack of mobility or transportation, a fragmented delivery system, and complex treatment needs including co-occurring conditions. Additionally, the social service needs of homeless individuals, including access to employment and housing, increase the morbidity and mortality of substance use OUD.

The good news is that integrated treatment that provides housing and employment as components of treatment can lead to recovery, improved overall health outcomes, and stability for people who are homeless.

Here are some key provisions from CARA that the Alliance believes are important to addressing the critical rates of addiction and death within homeless populations as a part of the national response to the opioid crisis:

  • The bill improves overdose response to prevent death through grants for naloxone an opioid-agonist that prevents overdose death, and to enhance training and education for first responders and community-based organizations. For an example of how your organization or community can implement an overdose response plan, check out the materials the folks at DESC have published here.
  • The bill provides new grants to communities that demonstrate plans to connect treatment to non-therapeutic supports including case management, housing and employment services.
  • The bill will drive further development of evidence-based practice for treatment and recovery for opioid use disorders.
  • While the bill does not include $920 million in additional funding that was supported by the administration, we are hopeful for increased funding during the appropriations process.

We believe that by providing housing and evidence-based treatment for people who are homeless and abusing opioids, we can simultaneously address two critical problems facing this country.