Numerous theories circulate about what is really fueling the opioid crisis. The insurance industry is to blame, the drug cartels, or the Trump Administration’s empty declarations. The fact that addiction rates, and death tolls in particular, continue to rise, indicates whatever our society is doing to combat the crisis isn’t enough. This includes law enforcement, the medical community, social media, grassroots organizations, and government and health agencies.
For one, Americans are showing more signs of depression and anxiety than they have in decades. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year. Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.
It’s time to focus on mental health. Fighting addiction from the outside in, hasn’t been working. Approaching addiction from a mental health perspective, that is inside out, has the potential to combat the drug crisis. People with low incomes and mental health problems are susceptible to addiction. Of course, addiction and mental health issues don’t plague just low income families. However, with health insurance premiums geared towards those more capable of paying, poor people and those with lower and minimum wage incomes are more than often left out in the cold when it comes to treatment options.
Social workers possess a skill set that’s unique in our public health system, one that focuses on addressing people’s health needs holistically. According to Angelo McClain, the CEO of the National Association of Social Workers, nearly 40 percent of the nation’s almost 650,000 social workers specialize in mental health.
Research suggests social workers can play more of a crucial role in public health infrastructure. One study, with almost 80 research trials, discovered when patient care is combined in a team effort, outcomes improved for two years following the start of their treatment.
Angelo McClain opines that policymakers at all levels of government must recognize that the contributions of social workers will be crucial if we’re to tackle these public health challenges. Funding for mentally ill or individuals who want help with addiction recovery, but can’t afford treatment, must be a national priority.
“Love is not patronizing and charity isn’t about pity, it is about love. Charity and love are the same — with charity you give love, so don’t just give money but reach out your hand instead.”
― Mother Teresa
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