By Jon Larsen and Sterling Johnson
People who need opioid use (OUD) treatment in the United States are often not receiving it — at least two million people with OUD are experiencing a treatment gap that prevents or hampers their ability to receive life-saving care and support. This reality reflects structural, policy, and legal misalignments common to the entire U.S. health care system, but that are especially present for behavioral health needs like substance use, and are exacerbated by other challenges related to stigma, lack of employment, and fragmented or nonexistent care coordination.
With support from the Foundation for Opioid Response Efforts (FORE), public health law experts from Indiana University McKinney School of Law and the Temple University Center for Public Health Law Research at the Beasley School of Law recently embarked on a systematic review of U.S. drug policy using a whole-of-government (W-G) approach to assess where these misalignments are occurring among different agencies at the same level of government (referred to as horizontal W-G), and across different levels of government (referred to as vertical W-G). It ultimately provides a tool to address these misalignments directly.