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March 4, 2024

What We are Listening for During President Biden’s 2024 State of the Union

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“If you’re suffering from addiction, know you are not alone. I believe in recovery, and I celebrate the 23 million Americans in recovery.”

In the State of the Union two years ago, President Biden acknowledged the ongoing overdose crisis in the United States. The President delivered a message of hope—that his administration would continue to fight for access to effective treatment for substance use disorder (SUD) and support the millions of Americans currently in recovery. The Global Health Advocacy Incubator’s (GHAI) Overdose Prevention Initiative celebrated the President’s public support for recovery, which reinforces our program’s policy goals to increase access to evidence-based treatment and reduce the stigma around help-seeking.

When President Biden delivers his 2024 State of the Union address later this week, he will not only address Congress. He will address the more than 20 million Americans in recovery from addiction, the family members and friends of the 112,000 Americans who lost their lives to overdose in the last year, and the 42 percent of all Americans who know someone who has died of an overdose.

This year, GHAI and other advocates for overdose prevention hope to hear President Biden reiterate his commitment to solving the overdose crisis by removing the barriers that prevent people with Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) from accessing treatment whenever and wherever they need it. We also will listen for President Biden to recommit to improving the outlook for Americans who are seeking treatment for OUD and urge Congress to do the same.

By advancing federal policies that address the disparities, inequities and stigma in the SUD treatment system, we can make a difference in the lives of people across the U.S. and prevent overdose deaths. To do this, GHAI advances policies centered on three basic principles:

  • Promote accessible, low-threshold treatment for substance use disorder;
  • Remove barriers that create inequities in accessing treatment and harm reduction services; and
  • Decrease stigma and improve public perception of help-seeking.

One critical way to promote accessible, low-threshold treatment is to reduce the burden of federal over-regulation of methadone, an FDA-approved medication proven to prevent overdose. Methadone is a lifesaving medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD), but for decades, unnecessary federal restrictions have made it burdensome for methadone patients to receive their treatment. Last month, GHAI hosted a congressional briefing, in collaboration with the Congressional Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus, to educate members of Congress and their staff on the lifesaving potential of methadone. President Biden can emphasize his commitment to health equity and treatment access by highlighting his Administration’s advancement of methadone access.

President Biden should also highlight his Administration’s achievement in providing MOUD in jails and prisons. People who are incarcerated are at a much higher risk of dying from an overdose upon release than the average American, but receiving MOUD treatment during incarceration sharply cuts that risk. In January, GHAI escorted five Members of Congress and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy to the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center to observe the positive effects of MOUD treatment programs in correctional facilities. The Biden Administration’s focus on a window of high lifesaving impact will help to end the overdose crisis.

A president’s words hold immense weight and can spur forward progress, which is why we were pleased to see President Biden call on the U.S. Congress to pass the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act in his 2022 State of the Union—and celebrate its passage in 2023. Now, two years later, GHAI will watch the 2024 State of the Union and listen to President Biden’s plan to address the overdose crisis in and advocate for evidence-based policy solutions that will prevent overdose deaths.