“Someone is finally listening”

I spent a decade addicted to opioids: Here’s why Pete Buttigieg gives me hope

By Ryan Hampton – Sept 15, 2019 (TheHill.com)

I met Pete Buttigieg for the first time last week. As a gay man, I was intrigued by his historic campaign to be the first LGBTQ president. However, Pete’s identity isn’t why I am choosing to support him. He’s getting my vote because of his landmark plan to combat the national addiction crisis—an epidemic that claims more than 200 American lives every day. For the first time, a presidential candidate is talking some sense about mental health care and addiction.

Pete’s plan is important because it focuses on supporting existing advocacy efforts. Instead of replacing grassroots advocates or letting the federal government tell our communities what recovery is, people who have real experiences with mental health care will lead from the bottom up. To help ensure that communities on the front lines of this crisis are given the tools needed to tackle it head on in their own way, the plan would provide $10 billion Healing and Belonging annual grants allocated over a 10-year period to aid policies or programs around prevention, care integration, and community. Local communities know what works—this plan gives us the tools we need to make sure our children, friends, loved ones, partners and community members get the help they need, in a way that they can understand and access. The plan specifically includes funding to massively expand the peer support workforce: a vital, lifesaving network of people in recovery who mentor and guide others as they take steps toward wellness. Mental health flourishes in connected, empowered communities where resources are shared. This plan makes that possible.

Most importantly, Pete’s plan puts people first. The national epidemic isn’t just an opioid crisis: As Pete’s plan outlines: “Last year, for every five people who died from opioid overdose, three died from overdose due to other drugs, such as methamphetamine or cocaine; five died by suicide; and nine died an alcohol-related death. Combined, these deaths have contributed to the longest sustained decline in American life expectancy since World War I.” It’s clear that we can’t invest in another “War on Drugs” that punishes people for being sick. Drugs are not the problem: they are a symptom of the problem. That’s why we need to decriminalize addiction, offer universally available recovery and mental health support, and deal with the root causes of these issues.

I’m ready for a national campaign that does more than offer millions of people the bare minimum they need to survive. Most candidates have solely focused on talking points around Big Pharma and the other players who created the current day opioid crisis. I agree we must hold them accountable, but those issues barely scratch the surface—especially because the epidemic is not limited to opioids. Pete has taken the bold move to talk about the deeper, systemic forces that prevent people from getting care and keep us sick.

There should be no decisions about us, without us. With Pete Buttigieg, I feel like someone is finally listening.

[read in full at TheHill.com]

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