To President-elect Donald J. Trump:
You have been elected as the outsider and someone who is expected to “drain the swamp.” You were elected because of your direct and unconventional ideas that alter the national discussion on many issues. You, along with the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives, have an opportunity to address and ultimately reform two major issues that have been swept under the rug and received little to no attention during the presidential election — mental health care in this country, and the growing heroin and opioid epidemic that is ravaging our communities.
As a mental health professional who works with drug addicts, I have seen the failures of the current system. Too many addicts are cut off from adequate, long-term care that they need and deserve. Insurance companies are dictating treatment and not providing the necessary coverage for those in residential drug treatment programs.
While the insurance companies are deciding the length of care, our pharmaceutical companies are pumping pain pills out at an unimaginable rate, leading doctors to overprescribe highly addictive pills that are expensive and lead many individuals to find a cheaper source of pain relief: heroin.
Additionally, mental health care in this country is deplorable (to borrow a term from the election). Community mental health centers are poorly run, understaffed and driven by managed care. The Veterans Administration is a mess, as countless veterans wait for mental health care and benefits.
As a clinician, the current state of care is sad and something needs to change. Here are a few proposals that will address the issues listed above:
• Rein in pharmaceutical companies’ ability to continue overselling pain medications, particularly opioids, and lay out a five-to-10-year plan where pain management doctors MUST find alternate treatments.
• The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services should track the amount of pain pills doctors prescribe to a patient and ensure overmedicating patients is not happening.
• Label fentanyl a Class A or B drug. This highly addictive drug is being used by heroin addicts and is 100 times stronger than heroin. If police catch someone with fentanyl, they cannot do anything. Empower police and local authorities to rid the drug from our communities.
• Cut the red tape at the Veterans Administration, and allow vets to access private mental health clinics and providers.
Your administration has a tremendous opportunity to tackle these issues. I hope you act boldly.
BRAD JAFFE, WEST PALM BEACH
Editor’s note: Brad Jaffe is president of Family Relations Intervention LLC in West Palm Beach.