The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2015


On May 14, 2015, Altarum Institute hosted a policy roundtable on community-based solutions to addiction in the United States. Discussions that day underscore the need for passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2015 (CARA).

There are transformative moments within social movements when intense advocacy produces landmark legislation and legal decisions of enormous and enduring historical significance. The sustained efforts of recovery advocates in the forties, fifties, and sixties culminated in passage of the Comprehensive Alcoholism Prevention and Treatment Act of 1970. Popularly known as the "Hughes Act"" for the Senator who had championed its passage, his legislation laid the foundation for modern alcoholism treatment. Passage of parallel legislation in 1972 forged resources for the treatment of addiction to drugs other than alcohol.

Numerous pieces of legislation supporting addiction treatment have been passed in the past four decades, but the bi-partisan support of CARA could dramatically influence the history of addiction treatment and recovery in the U.S., potentially on par with the legislation of the early 1970s. Even a cursory scan of the House and Senate versions of CARA will reveal a response to the voices of recovery advocates over the past decade voices calling for expansion of community-based prevention efforts, treatment alternatives to incarceration, naloxone distribution to reduce opioid overdose deaths, high school and collegiate recovery support programs, community- and peer-based recovery support services, expanded treatment and recovery support services for women and veterans, and removal of discriminatory obstacles for people seeking recovery.

Seen as a whole, CARA marks a significant federal response to individuals, families, and communities injured by opioid addiction and it marks an extension of clinical interventions into the arena of non-clinical recovery support services. This has the potential to institutionalize resources that help maintain as well as initiate addiction recovery. It also marks the beginning of efforts to create healing sanctuaries in which recovery can flourish within local communities. It extends supports initiated through the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment's Recovery Community Services Program (RCSP) and Access to Recovery ATR) Program and complements the expansion of treatment access unfolding through the Affordable Care Act and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Acts.

CARA will pass if those in the halls of Congress are convinced that the recovery community and the larger world of people affected by addiction and recovery constitute constituencies of consequence. Our faces and voices could well be the tipping point in passage of this landmark legislation. Speakers at the Altarum Institute policy roundtable eloquently outlined the historical import of the cultural awakening of people in recovery both in the U.S. and internationally. The potential import of this new recovery-focused legislation requires a mobilized and effective advocacy effort. If you want to know how you can help, read Carol McDaid's recent blog post for Altarum and visit Faces and Voices of Recovery's website for more information.

Decades ago, Marty Mann, Senator Harold Hughes, and hundreds of unnamed recovery advocates spent most of their adult lives creating resources that have helped hundreds of thousands of individuals and families harvest the fruits of recovery, including many of you reading this blog. The time has arrived for us to help pass the legislation that will ensure and expand such resources for coming generations. So, let's go make some history.

Cross-posted at Altarum Health Policy Forum