Addiction, Treatment and Recovery
U.S. Representative Jim Ramstad Announces New Congressional Recovery Caucus In Betty Ford Center Address
Tags: alcoholism Education legislation
In an address to the Betty Ford Center Chairman’s Council, U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad announced the formation of a new Congressional caucus to promote awareness of chemical addiction issues and increase support for increased access to treatment.
The bipartisan Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus will, said Ramstad, “educate lawmakers on the problems of addiction and the need for expanding treatment access.” According to the Minnesota representative, “Last year alone, 3.5 million Americans were denied access to treatment, and this is totally unacceptable.”
Ramstad also called on Congress to pass treatment parity legislation “to end the discrimination against alcoholics and addicts who need treatment.”
Ramstad reminded Chairman’s Council members that 26 million Americans suffer the ravages of alcoholism and drug addiction. If the pending parity legislation (introduced originally in 1997) had passed, he said, the lives of 150,000 Americans who died last year from alcoholism and drug addiction could have been saved. Annual savings of $400 billion would have been realized.
The Minnesota lawmaker described the response of the federal government to America’s Number One public health problem as “woefully inadequate.”
“The American people cannot afford to wait any longer for the Congress and the President to get real about addiction in America. We have an epidemic on our hands. It’s time to treat addiction as the disease it is.”
Ramstad noted that it’s been nearly half a century since the AMA classified alcoholism as a disease. Yet, he added, “our government continues to allow discrimination in treatment against alcoholics and addicts covered by health plans. It also fails to provide adequate Medicaid treatment for those not covered by health insurance.”
In short, Ramstad argued, “our government allows discrimination against people with this fatal disease – discrimination that would be unthinkable against people with any other disease.”
The parity legislation prohibits discriminatory caps, artificially high deductibles and co-payments, limited treatment stays and other restrictions on chemical dependency treatment that don’t apply to other diseases.
“In other words,” Ramstad told Chairman’s Council members, “our bill establishes parity for chemical dependency treatment.”
The co-author of the proposed parity legislation was the late Senator Paul Wellstone. Ramstad told his audience that Wellstone used to often remind him that it took 20 years from the time it was introduced for the Civil Rights Act to become law.
“I hope and pray it doesn’t take 20 years to enact treatment parity,” said Ramstad. “But we’re realists – and we know we have a long, hard row to hoe.”
Rep. Jim Ramstad, a recovering alcoholic, has been a leader in Congress on addiction issues, and recently received the Betty Ford National Leadership Award from the National Association of Children of Alcoholics for “his leadership in Congress to promote recovery and bring hope and healing to thousands of children and families.”
The Chairman’s Council of the Betty Ford Center is composed of 33 individuals who are “ambassadors” of the Rancho Mirage, California-based Chemical Dependency Recovery Hospital. Council members gather twice-yearly to discuss addiction, treatment and recovery issues, as well as the current and future state of the non-profit Betty Ford Center.
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