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Lawmakers Seek Support for Drug Treatment Bill

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A pair of Minnesota lawmakers recently held a hearing in hopes of advancing legislation that would prohibit health insurers from limiting addiction treatment, the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune reported Sept. 19.

U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.) and Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) co-hosted hearings on the stalled legislation in order to heighten awareness about illicit drug and alcohol addiction, which Ramstad called “the “Number One public health and safety issue in America.”

The pair have pushed for greater visibility by recovering addicts and a shift in funding to focus on reducing demand for drugs. In particular, Ramstad criticized the $1.3 billion in drug aid the U.S. sent to Colombia, saying it could have funded treatment for 200,000 Americans.

“The United States has misdirected its priorities,” Ramstad said. “In 1972, when Richard Nixon began the war on drugs, 60 percent of federal funds went to treatment. That figure has fallen to 18 percent.”

According to H. Westley Clark, M.D., director of the federal Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, the cost of adding drug and alcohol treatment to the premiums of health-care plans would be about 0.2 percent.

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