A Focus on Advocacy Promotes a Greater Good
As hard as our partners in addiction treatment work every day to help better the lives of their patients, most are also seeing great value in promoting positive change across the industry. Elevating the treatment field’s standing with policy-makers and the public will prove essential to giving communities the resources they need to combat today’s challenges.
We at Sigmund Software are proud of our working relationship with important voices such as Shatterproof, a national nonprofit organization with activities that promote enhanced addiction treatment quality, reduction of stigma and advancement of public education. We recently spoke with Shatterproof’s chief policy officer, Kevin Roy, to discuss current issues in of policy advocacy.
Roy emphasized that no one organization or sector in the field can succeed in this work alone. In its public policy advocacy activity across the country, Shatterproof counts prevention programs, treatment facilities, community anti-drug coalitions and harm reduction organizations among its valued partners. What is bringing all of these groups together? Roy believes the insidious threat from fentanyl has raised the stakes for everyone, no matter what population they work with or what drug of choice they encounter most often.
“What’s top of mind is fentanyl,” Roy said. Improving access to drug testing equipment and overdose reversal medication have become important parts of the response, but all players are realizing the need for a much more comprehensive strategy, he said.
A number of bills currently under consideration by Texas state legislators offer an example of how this issue is being addressed from diverse perspectives. Roy cited a bill introduced by Texas State Rep. Stephanie Klick that would integrate several existing data sources to offer better tracking of fentanyl overdoses and related trends. Klick believes synthesizing data from all levels of health care and law enforcement is essential in a state that has seen a 120% increase in fentanyl-related deaths since 2020.
Another measure that has advanced in the state House and awaits action in the Senate would allow individuals to use fentanyl test strips to test street drugs without the threat of punishment. Fentanyl test strips are currently classified as drug paraphernalia in the state. There is also proposed legislation that would significantly increase criminal penalties for the sale and distribution of fentanyl.
Discussion of some of the proposed bills has occasionally pitted different interest groups against each other in a debate over which approach to combating the opioid crisis would work best. But Roy warned, “The reality is it’s often not an either/or,” adding, “We cannot let disagreements sidetrack us.”
Reducing stigma also constitutes a major component of Shatterproof’s overall strategy. Its leaders state on the organization’s website, “Stigma is the missing piece in our nation’s response to the addiction crisis.” Roy said Shatterproof has active stigma reduction campaigns in Pennsylvania, Kentucky and California, with expansion into Georgia soon to follow.
Shatterproof has created toolkits to help local communities take action to influence multiple target audiences in the fight against stigma, including employers, healthcare institutions and the criminal justice system. It also developed an “addiction stigma index” that annually measures stakeholder and public knowledge, attitudes and behaviors around substance use issues.
Roy believes the momentum for proactive policy initiatives around addiction remains strong. Asked about Shatterproof’s wish list in Washington, he said, “We need a national education campaign around fentanyl’s harms, and the need for primary prevention.” He also cited ongoing efforts to improve treatment access and quality. Stronger enforcement of insurance parity continues to be a high-priority topic for Shatterproof and other national advocacy organizations.
Shatterproof also reaches out directly to consumers with its ATLAS free web resource for families seeking high-quality treatment. It collects standardized information from treatment providers and in turn is able to share data with families on the features most important to them, from the service mix to location information to payment and insurance options. “Treatment providers have been consistent advocates,” Roy said.
Everyday challenges often can make it difficult for those on the front lines of treatment to look at the bigger picture. But fighting to elevate the field and eliminate discrimination remains critical if we are to see the industry assert its rightful place in overall health care. We at Sigmund Software are committed to improving providers’ everyday experience, and also are proud of our association with groups such as Shatterproof that are working on behalf of the community as a whole.
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