National Panel Finds Treatment Services 'Crucial' to Health Reform

The Alcoholism Report, November 1993 | Go to article overview

National Panel Finds Treatment Services 'Crucial' to Health Reform


Alcohol and other drug treatment services are an essential part of universal health care and must be included in any final benefit package, according to a national panel that was convened by Join Together, and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to study ways to finance treatment services.

Join Together is a Boston-based national program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Fundation to help communities to be more effective in fighting the harmful use of alcohol and other drugs.

"Substance abuse is at the heart of many of the problems facing our communities today," said David L. Rosenbloom, the director of Join Together. "If everyone with an alcohol or drug problem had access to treatment, we'd see fewer fatal traffic crashes, children would go to school more ready to learn, we'd have fewer marital breakups and the murder and crime rates would sharply decline," he said.

The panel recommends that alcohol and other drug treatment services be a part of the standard health care benefit guaranteed for all Americans. This would mean that everyone with an alcohol or other drug problem would have universal access to care, including appropriate prevention, education and treatment options.

The panel proposes raising alcohil and cigarette taxes to provide revenue for health care and to serve as a deterrent to use. Raising taxes on beer would reduce teen drinking, according to the findings of the findings of the panel.

Kathryn Whitemire, the former five-term mayor of Houston, chaired the nine-member panel, which included experts in drug treatment and financing, and leaders of community coalitions.

The communitee's recommendations include:

* Substance abuse treatment should be financed through the same sources that fund general health care. The committee recommends that sources of health care funding should include increased taxes on alcohol and tobacco.

* Prevention should be adequately financial through a combination of public and private sector funding sources. Preceeds from drug-related asset forfeitures and seizures should be available to enhance spending for prevention at local discretion.

* The nation must made a commitment to adopt and enforce cost containment mechanisms to control the rise in health care costs throughout the health care system; substance abuse prevention and treatment programs in and of themselves are essential components of any overall health care cost containment strategy. …

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