No Laughing Matter

Posted on Monday, June 26th

“Now in Russia, they got it mapped out so that everyone pulls for everyone else– that’s the theory, anyway. But what I know about is America …And down here… you’re on your own.” -From the movie Blood Simple (slightly amended)

Treatment for people who are addicted to heroin is a major theme of my play “Inside Job.” And that begins with: don’t shame – don’t blame. Heroin addiction is not a moral failure or criminal intent. It’s a learning disorder and has to be treated as such.

According to writer and former addict Maia Szalavitch, “it’s a difference in the wiring of the brain that affects the way we process information about motivation, reward and punishment. She adds that “empowering, empathetic treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational enhancement therapy nurtures an internal willingness to change.”

While this approach makes more sense to me there are other programs and treatments. But far too many people are not receiving any treatment at all, because they aren’t available or they don’t have the money.

USA Today reports that, “Only 11% of the 22.7 million Americans who needed drug or alcohol treatment in 2013 actually got it, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. While some of those who went without care did so by choice, at least 316,000 tried and failed to get treatment.”

Senate research has found that as many as 80% of those who need treatment don’t receive it. They are placed on waiting lists for weeks or even months. Also, more than 30 million people don’t have a single provider of medication assisted treatment near where they live.

The Business Insider reports that Obamacare opened Medicaid up to more than 11 million new people. But that treatment gap still persists and is about to become a canyon if Trump Care is enacted into law. Senate Republicans are about to pass a bill that would gut Medicaid by as much as 800 billion dollars. Of course that money will pay for a huge tax cut for the wealthiest people in America.

It’s no exaggeration to say that people are going to die in the streets. Will the mega rich living in their gated communities see them?

But at least Republican politicians are taking these actions with a sober and judicious countenance. Consider their muted response when the House version of this madness was passed.

President Donald Trump, accompanied by GOP House members, speaks after the House pushed through a health care bill, in the Rose Garden of the White House, Thursday, May 4, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

It isn’t as if these ideas just suddenly sprang from nowhere. No, they’ve been nurtured and groomed for decades.  Why House Speaker Paul Ryan used to get drunk dreaming of killing Medicaid.

It’s a pretty clear message: If you’re not rich, you’re on your own.