“Like most states, Alabama has been hit hard with opioid abuse and addiction. Indeed, our state has the highest rate of prescription opioid use in the nation, and it’s well established that legitimate use of opioid medication is a leading cause of illicit opioid abuse. But opioids aren’t our only drug problem,” explained Maddox.
In an effort to get to the root of the problem, Maddox will separate substance abuse out from under the Department of Mental Health and create a cabinet level officer who answers directly to the Governor “in the battle to save our state from the ravages of illegal drug use while continuing to coordinate drug policy with mental health resources so that underlying causes of addiction are addressed.”
He also reiterated the need to expand Medicaid to tackle the opioid epidemic.
“The expansion will increase the availability of and access to treatment and counseling that we so desperately need. We also need to improve prescription drug monitoring and make medical treatments more widely available, like Soboxone, which alleviates the pain of opioid withdrawal but is too expensive for most to afford without assistance,” Maddox said in a statement
He continued, “The opioid epidemic is also a time for society to look inward and reflect on how our past reaction to problems, like the crack cocaine scourge of two or three decades ago that disproportionately affected African American communities, was to enhance law enforcement and criminal penalties.”
“The ‘war on drugs’ was never an effective strategy to treat substance abuse. Today we see a more compassionate, treatment-based approach to fighting opioids, which are devastating white and black communities alike. It’s terrible that it takes a growing tragedy in white communities to help us see the truth of what’s been happening in all our communities for many years, but the fact is that substance abuse has always been first and foremost a public health problem that cannot be solved by the criminal justice system alone. We’ve not always treated it that way, and that must change.”