U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a Michigan Democrat, has been a leader in expanding the availability of treatment for Americans suffering from heroin addiction. In 2000, he co-sponsored with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the Drug Addiction Treatment Act -- groundbreaking legislation that allows community-based physicians to treat opioid-dependent patients with buprenorphine. Buprenorphine is similar to methadone, which has more than 40 years of proven effectiveness, but which may only be used by comprehensive treatment programs; both medications have a high degree of success in treating dependency on heroin and prescription painkillers such as OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin.
In 2006, Levin sponsored another bill that substantially increased the number of patients for whom physicians can prescribe buprenorphine. At that time, he noted "the great success of buprenorphine treatment" and continued, "It is tragic if the personal and community benefits of this new anti-addiction medication ... are limited because of artificial limits on its use."
Unfortunately, precisely such "artificial limits" persist, and one of the greatest barriers to care is our Department of Defense. In clear defiance of congressional intent and ignoring decades of proven efficacy of medication-assisted treatment, the Department's TRICARE insurance plan refuses to pay for any maintenance treatment for addiction. And who are the people desperately seeking and needing help, but being denied coverage? American military, veterans and their families, including survivors of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of their country and been killed in action.
Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.
If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.
Monday, December 07, 2009