Statement of Patrick J. Kennedy on the Obama Administration’s Plan to Address Prescription Drug Abuse and Heroin Use

“I thank the President for addressing the addiction crisis that’s ravaging communities across the United States. I’ll be the first to say that we need more action on the federal, state, and local levels to reverse the tide of overdose deaths, while expanding access to treatment, especially now that the crisis has reached epidemic proportions in many parts of the country.

What defines this announcement, however, is what it left out – no discussion whatsoever of enforcing the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, one of the most important ways to ensure that addiction is treated fairly and equitably by the insurance industry. Parity opens the door to a full range of services that will truly help all who are living with addictions or other mental health conditions.

This law, already on the books, should be a cornerstone of any plan to comprehensively address the opioid overdose crisis in America.

I call on the President to back up his bold statements today with bold action on parity tomorrow. He can do this right away by demanding that insurers and other payers disclose their medical management criteria, and how they employ them, as required by law. Then the federal government needs to quickly extend parity to include Medicaid and SCHIP, the largest government payers, with the largest population of untreated addiction and mental illnesses. Only then will we be doing what needs to be done to end this epidemic.”

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“We stand on the doorstep to make momentous progress in advancing the cause of this new civil rights struggle started by the work of President Kennedy over 50 years ago.”
— Patrick J. Kennedy
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