We can all agree that the drug addiction epidemic in this country requires attention by leaders in every state. This is a tragedy that touches so many of us, and it’s up to our elected officials to take action to curb the epidemic.
That’s why President Obama has made drug treatment a priority for his administration. The Affordable Care Act includes countless protections for those impacted by drug abuse. Mental health and substance abuse coverage is now available to thousands of individuals, thanks to Obamacare.
But what we’ve seen from Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, and other GOP candidates running for president isn’t going to help fix the problems we face. In fact, their actions could make the situation worse.
In New Jersey, Chris Christie has had an opportunity to make real progress on behalf of his constituents when it comes to drug abuse. But he’s failed to take meaningful action on this issue, despite the fact that the state’s heroin overdose rate is now triple the national average – an alarming statistic that occurred on Christie’s watch.
Here’s what we’ve seen from Governor Christie, to the detriment of countless New Jerseyans:
· Fewer admissions to drug treatment programs. Under Chris Christie, the state has suffered from a lack of capacity to help those seeking addiction treatments. In 2013, 10 percent of people seeking treatment could be accommodated. Despite this disappointing statistic,Christie said he did not want to build new state drug treatment facilities, leaving those seeking treatment with few options to get the help they need.
· No reassessment of treatment beds since Christie first took office. Despite the fact that the state is unable to provide treatment to the vast majority of those who seek it, the Christie administration hasn’t taken necessary steps to reassess how many treatment beds it would actually need to help these individuals.
· Lack of funding for treatment centers thanks to Christie’s mismanaged budget.Governor Christie’sbudget failures have led to a lack of investment in treatment facilities throughout the state.
· Calls to repeal mental health and substance abuse coverage included in the Affordable Care Act. Governor Christie joins the rest of the GOP field in his desire to repeal the ACA and strip mental health and substance abuse coverage from men and women who need it to afford the cost of treatment.
· Support for drug testing welfare recipients.Chris Christie, like so many GOP Presidential candidates,supports drug testing those applying for public assistance. This backwards GOP inquisition doesn’t do any good for those seeking help, or for a state’s budget.
And it’s not just Chris Christie who is taking the wrong steps to remedy the drug abuse epidemic in this country. It’s the entire Republican field.
- Jeb Bush opposed a ballot initiative giving drug offenders the right to treatment instead of prison, and Florida received an “F” grade from the National Alliance on Mental Illness for its mental health system infrastructure under his leadership.
- Marco Rubio prevented mental health legislation from even getting a vote when he was Speaker of the House in Florida, and wants to strip mental health and substance abuse coverage from men and women who need it to afford the cost of treatmentby repealing the Affordable Care Act.
- John Kasichsupported a program to force drug testing of welfare recipients, and claimed he didn’t get why the program was “an attack on the poor.”
- Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina and theentire Republican field would repeal the Affordable Care Act, which provides coverage for substance abuse and mental health treatment.
We can all agree that something needs to be done. However, Chris Christie’s rhetoric doesn’t match his actions, which is becoming an all too familiar pattern with the rest of the Republican field. The difference between what Christie says and what he does is why voters can't trust Republican politicians to govern.
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