So many politicians pay lip service to “solving the opioid epidemic,” while continuing to take campaign contributions from the companies that have manufactured it. Journalists fear monger with articles and documentaries about the “dangerous” homeless people with addictions that the public needs protecting from.
I am a sober alcoholic. I bring a needed perspective to the debate over the opioid and addiction crisis. As the disability community says, “nothing about us without us.” I’m personally aware of the benefits of detox and rehab — they saved many of my friends’ lives. But many people die waiting in line to get treatment. In the wealthiest country on earth, this is unconscionable.
A single-payer, Medicare for All healthcare system will get alcoholics and addicts the help they need, when they need it.
But solutions must go much farther than that. Addiction is a disease of despair. What’s the point in living when there’s nothing to live for — no good jobs, no benefits, no housing, no future for your family?
This is not an “opioid epidemic” — it’s a despair epidemic. We must build a society that people don’t want to check out of. A society where everyone thrives. Where everyone can work for a living wage, afford a home, and access the healthcare they need. Where “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” isn’t an empty slogan but an everyday reality. I intend to stop the criminalization of poverty and homelessness, which traps people in a downward cycle from which addiction can seem the only escape.
We must offer a new escape: hope.
We must guarantee housing as a human right. Period. Every human being has worth and deserves a home. “Housing first” policies not only make moral sense, but financial sense. They have been found to save $4,745 per person when implemented as part of a comprehensive supportive housing and services program. And when people have stable housing, they are much more likely to get — and stay — clean and sober. Housing, treatment, and a job provide a stable foundation for alcoholics and addicts to recover.
And finally, we must bring criminal charges against the companies and individuals who manufactured the opioid epidemic, bring pharmaceutical production into public ownership, and provide worker retraining for the drug reps whose jobs will be eliminated once our healthcare system runs on a people motive instead of a profit motive.