White House Analysts Discuss Multifaceted Effort to Overcome Overdose Crisis
As keynote speakers at the Taking Action Summit, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Senior Policy Analyst Peter Gaumond and General Counsel Robert Kent laid out a series of programs in the Biden-Harris Administration National Drug Control Strategy that are intended to build recovery ecosystems in communities nationwide. Goals for the programs include harm reduction, improving access to medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD), and encouraging recovery-ready workplaces.
A large part of the federal effort is to increase access to evidenced-based care for substance use disorder (SUD). Some of the initiatives that Gaumond and Kent discussed include the establishment of mobile methadone distribution clinics, MOUD clinics in jails and prisons, telephone initiation of buprenorphine, and practice guidelines already in place that allow increased flexibility in prescribing MOUD. (A Notice of Intent is utilized to receive an X-waiver to treat up to 30 patients at one time.)
Gaumond, who himself has been in recovery for 35 years, recognized the importance of social determinants of health. He discussed social and institutional stigma toward people with SUD, which often is compounded when people experience incarceration related to their SUD. As part of the effort to eliminate stigma, the administration will be undertaking a governmentwide effort to promote the adoption of consistent, neutral, science-based terminology regarding substance use and will be working with communities to increase awareness of how language can perpetuate stigma and to encourage people to recognize the humanity of those with SUD.
The White House hopes to boost employment and recovery-ready workplaces by changing perceptions about people in recovery and discouraging punitive approaches to workplace drug policies. It also is developing community partnerships that emphasize the hiring of people in recovery and the adoption of recovery-ready workplace policies, which seek to reduce the risk of substance use in the workforce, facilitate help-seeking for substance use disorder, and provide a welcoming and supportive environment for those in recovery.
Harm reduction is a key focus of the National Drug Control Strategy and an essential part of the substance use intervention continuum. It is an approach that recognizes that both substance use disorder and recovery are processes. As Gaumond said, it allows us to “meet people where they are” with programs that provide potentially life-saving services and supplies, including overdose prevention information and access to naloxone, sterile syringes, and fentanyl test strips. Harm reduction can serve as a point of contact for marginalized people and a gateway to a range of needed services and supports, including substance use treatment. Gaumond said that a growing number of recovery community organizations are engaging in or supporting harm reduction, noting that, as a process, recovery begins when people first take action to reduce the negative impacts of their substance use.
State laws governing harm reduction vary widely, Gaumond said. The administration has developed legislation, the Model Syringe Services Program Act, to provide a template that states can draw upon in expanding access to services.
Senior Policy Analyst, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy
General Counsel, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy