Addressing the Substance Use Epidemic: The Vital Role of Legislative Support in Recovery

By Keegan Wicks


As families, loved ones, and peers – real people – continue to experience preventable, substance use disorders (SUD) overdose deaths, legislative initiatives play a pivotal role in shaping the landscape of recovery and support for those impacted by addiction.

One such landmark bill, recently reintroduced by Senator Elizabeth Warren and a coalition of lawmakers, underscores the pressing need for comprehensive measures to address the substance use epidemic.

Let’s delve into the significance of this bill for people with SUD and how it could impact their journey to recovery.

The CARE Act

The reintroduced Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency (CARE) Act encompasses a range of provisions aimed at prevention, treatment, and support services, reflecting a comprehensive strategy to 1) tackle the underlying factors contributing to SUD, and 2) empower individuals to find a path to recovery that works for them.

As Patty McCarthy, our CEO at Faces & Voices of Recovery, says, “This bill is a lifeline for countless individuals and families grappling with the devastating impact of substance use disorders.” The urgency for legislative action on substance misuse – and the opioid epidemic in particular – cannot be overstated.

One of the bill’s primary pillars allows for expanded access to evidence-based treatment services for people with SUD, a crucial element in mitigating the dangers of addiction and facilitating sustainable recovery. By ensuring that folx have timely access to quality treatment, the bill lays a foundation for positive outcomes and an accessible way to break a life-threatening cycle.

Moreover, the bill underscores the importance of robust support services throughout the recovery journey. Recovery from substance use disorders is not exclusive to abstaining from substances; it encompasses the broader processes of health and wellness. Thus, the inclusion of provisions to enhance support services, including housing, employment assistance, and peer support, is instrumental in addressing the multifaceted needs of people in recovery.

Central to the legislative efforts is a proactive approach to prevention. By investing in prevention efforts that target underlying risk factors and promote resilience, the bill aims to provide real solutions to aid our nation. Education, community outreach, and early intervention programs are integral components of this preventive approach, empowering people and communities to make informed choices and arm themselves with resources.

The cross-section of mental health and substance use

Furthermore, the bill acknowledges the intricate interplay between mental health and substance use disorders, highlighting the need for integrated care that addresses co-occurring conditions.

Mental health diagnoses often coexist with substance use disorders, exacerbating the complexity of treatment and recovery. By integrating mental health services into substance use treatment programs, the bill strives to provide comprehensive care that addresses the holistic needs of those affected by addiction.

This bill will also support families. By providing resources and assistance to caregivers and children impacted by substance use, the CARE Act would strengthen family supports and services – a critical and often forgotten component of care.

In essence, the reintroduced bill spearheaded by Senator Warren and fellow lawmakers represents a beacon of hope for people with substance use disorders and their families. Its provisions encompass a spectrum of interventions aimed at prevention, treatment, and support services, reflecting a nuanced understanding of the challenges wrought in the long-term addiction recovery process.

“[It’s] not just about policy; it’s about saving lives and restoring hope,” Patty explained. Indeed, the impact of legislative support extends far beyond the realm of policymaking; it offers a lifeline for affected individuals in the chaotic storm of addiction.

A final word

As we navigate the complexities of addiction and recovery, it is imperative to rally behind legislative initiatives that prioritize the well-being of those affected by substance use disorders.

By championing comprehensive measures encompassing prevention, treatment, and support services, we can pave the way for a future where recovery is not just possible, but probable. Until then, let’s lead with compassion, empathy, and a commitment to reach out.

Don’t stop reaching out.

Keegan Wicks

National Advocacy and Outreach Manager

Since 2013 Keegan has actively worked in the recovery field through roles in advocacy, counseling, and management. A person in long-term recovery since December 2009, Keegan has first-hand experience living and maintaining an active, healthy, substance-free lifestyle.

Keegan’s personal commitment to helping show others a path to a brighter future began with his own program of recovery, embraced by a highly supportive family system, several years before his professional involvement in the field. Through his career he has served in a wide variety of programs and activities on local, state and national levels. Highlights include active leadership and contribution on the Pennsylvania Governor’s Office/Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Workforce Development Steering Committee, and the Recovery and Resiliency Steering Committee led by the Pennsylvania Recovery Organizations Alliance and the Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers’ Association. He has also been trained in Community Reinforcement and Family Training by the clinical research leadership at the Center for Motivation and Change.

Keegan has been privileged to serve as a speaker at several Pennsylvania universities and on local special interest panels, including forums for faith-based leaders, public school district parent education, and an audience Q/A response to a showing of the critically acclaimed documentary film, The Anonymous People. He was featured as a spokesperson in a Pennsylvania National Guard documentary on addiction and recovery; a guest at a U.S. Senate roundtable discussion on heroin and opioids in Washington, D.C. alongside the former Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy; and recently an honoree, along with his mother, Lauryn at the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids’ annual NYC Gala during an interview of them both, conducted by Elizabeth Vargas. He has advocated on behalf of recovery to policymakers at the state level as well as at the federal level on Capitol Hill. In 2017, Keegan was credentialed as a Pennsylvania Certified Recovery Specialist.