As coverage of the 2016 presidential election dominates virtually every media outlet in the country, far less attention is being paid to the down-ballot races that will be decided on the same day. We’ve only recently begun to hear about the importance of these contests, and it’s been largely in relation to the race for the White House. On November 8, 2016, Americans will determine the outcome of 469 separate elections (34 Senate seats and all 435 House seats) that will arguably prove to have more impact on their everyday lives than who’s sitting in the Oval Office. This is an opportunity to affect real change in their community and let their voices be heard.
Those of us that have been impacted by drug or alcohol addiction, whether directly or indirectly, will undoubtedly want to know what our current and prospective leaders plan to do to address this public health crisis going forward. One of the best and most accurate ways to do this is by getting engaged and investigating how they’ve acted on this issue in the past. We can start the process of vetting our candidates by checking their voting records. These records are public and are a profound indicator of our leaders’ level of involvement and willingness to improve the treatment climate in their communities.
The opioid elephant in the room is getting harder and harder to ignore. While it’s now wildly popular to come down in favor of treatment reform and increased access, funding this initiative is another matter, altogether. The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act may have enjoyed a comfortable 94-1 vote in the Senate, but that’s not where the legislative battle ends. To date, the bill is nowhere near paid for. The point is that there is legislation being discussed every day to combat the rise of addiction in America; some even makes it to a vote. We can begin to turn the tide of substance abuse in this country by better understanding how the leaders we put in power plan to address it.