CARA, the Comprehensive Addiction & Recovery Act, utilizes treatment and science-based recovery methods for addicts, and spreads education regarding abuse prevention through grants. As a bill, CARA was drafted and passed to the Senate on March 10th, 2016, with a vote of 94 – 1. The Senate approved and passed CARA to Congress on July 12th. A mere ten days later, Congress unanimously voted in approval, turning CARA into law. For the full writ of the law, click here.
CARA just became the single largest effort toward addiction recovery in our nation’s history. The fact that it went from bill to law rather quickly, in less than 5 months, shows that our government is aware of the American opioid epidemic.
Consider this statement made by President Obama on July 22nd, the day CARA became law: “Every day, 78 Americans die from opioid overdoses.” The President goes on: “My Administration has been doing everything we can to increase access to treatment, and I’m going to continue fighting to secure the funding families desperately need.”
WHY WE NEED CARA IN OUR LIVES
Last year, heroin and prescription pill overdoses killed more people than car crashes. The number of overdoses, fatal or not, has tripled in the last five years. CARA supplies naloxone, (aka Narcan), a medication used to immediately combat opioid effects, to law enforcement and first-responders. Also, CARA funds an evidence-based treatment and rehabilitation program, dramatically improving on the current services and medications.
More children are using drugs now than ever before. CARA allows states to monitor and track prescription drugs, provides recovery support for school-goers, expands and develops inter-community recovery sites, and creates more disposal sites for unused prescription drugs, keeping them away from our children.
As of September last year, literally half of the prison population in America was/is serving time for drug-related crimes. CARA aims to identify and treat those in prison who require assistance. This will be prompt, and is in coordination with criminal justice systems across the nation.
FURTHERING TREATMENT AND EDUCATION
The full scope of CARA is hard to condense into an article. Among the aforementioned actions, CARA prohibits the Department of Education from asking financial aid applicants about drug possession/sale convictions. Over 90% of addictions start in adolescence. CARA provides numerous forms of education to all ranges of people. Education on methamphetamine, heroin, opioid, and prescription drug abuse, along with education directly meant for parents and caretakers regarding abuse prevention will be provided.
$80 million is planned to be spent on evidence-based research, aiming to completely revamp the treatment system. The war on drugs should not end in a jail cell. It should end with treatment, education, and ultimately prevention. 50% of the jailed are in for drug-related crimes. 7% are in for violent crimes.
CARA is an excellent start at combatting these issues. A sponsor of the law, Sen. Rob Portman, said recently to the Huffington Post, “This is a strong signal that the United States Congress now understands this issue.”
A DETAILED SUMMARY OF CARA
- Recovery Community Organizations provide recovery services, education to the public, and resource centers for treatment assistance.
- The National Youth Initiative builds communities of support for middle school and high school children.
- Prior drug convictions no longer need to be disclosed to FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to receive financial aid for college.
- Naloxone, aka Narcan, is or will soon be readily available to those responding to overdoses. Naloxone has been proven to be effective.
- A National Task Force on Recovery and Collateral Consequences will be formed to reduce and eventually get rid of collateral consequences for those incarcerated for drug-related crimes. (Collateral consequences are additional state penalties attached to federal convictions).
- The Women, Families, Veterans & More section funds women’s recovery, veteran’s recovery, prescription take-back programs, and a national education campaign.