I arrived in southern California in 2002 with nothing but a backpack. I was fresh out of treatment and facing the steep consequences of my addiction terrified me. California was the new frontier, a place where I could start over. I dreamed of one day building a business, making a name for myself, and exploring the incredible opportunities my recovery had given me. In the next ten years, I did just that. I became part of the Costa Mesa recovery community, appeared as an intervention coordinator on A&E’s Intervention, and opened a treatment center for men like me, who were ready to change their lives.
I saw the people I helped get sober take huge leaps in their recovery. Our community grew. Addiction and recovery entered the mainstream. As the nation’s opioid epidemic surged, so did our community’s response. And for the first time we weren’t fighting this battle alone.
When the Surgeon General identified addiction as a mental illness, I felt like there was hope. Finally, instead of countless addicts and alcoholics dying every year, we had help. Although addicts still faced incredible prejudices, and the stigma of our illness, policy moved forward. Treatment was covered under Medicare as well as the Affordable Care Act.
Over the years, I paid high taxes as a business owner – up to 60 percent, some years. Those costs cut into what I could invest in my treatment center, and limited the services I could offer our clients. Although we were saving lots of lives at my facility, I envisioned what was possible, if only we had more resources.
When Donald Trump ran for office in 2016, his message seemed clear to me: cut taxes, and help addicts. At a town hall meeting in Farmington, N.H., he said, “We are gonna try and help the young people, and the old people, and the middle age people, and everybody that got addicted.” The fact that Trump himself was a non-drinker and non-drug user – abstinent, though not necessarily in recovery – made his words resonate strongly with me. I donated to his campaign and listened carefully when the candidates spoke about the need for treatment, recovery, and help for addicts. When I voted for him in November, I believed that I was one step closer to making my dream a reality.
The needed protection for people who struggle with addiction – among them my center’s clients, my friends, my loved ones, and myself – is not there.
However, since his inauguration, Trump has not made good on the promises that brought him my vote and my campaign contribution. Besides the strange inconsistencies in his behavior, his reactive social media presence, and his paranoia, there was the question of when and how he’d implement the health care policies that would save lives. With a daily death rate of almost 200 people per day, it was time to get serious. Where was Trump on this hard-hitting issue? I still haven’t seen the progressive action that was such an important part of his platform.
Furthermore, TrumpCare isn’t what it seems to be, either. Looking closely at what the president proposes, it’s full of holes. The needed protection for people who struggle with addiction – among them my center’s clients, my friends, my loved ones, and myself – is not there. Trump said that he would “repeal and replace” the Affordable Healthcare Act. The replacement, it seems, was even worse than the original. And it looks like they’re not stopping with ACA, either. Republicans are suggesting a rollback of Medicaid, which offers critical coverage for people who need inpatient and outpatient treatment. Republican leaders, such as Speaker Paul Ryan, are scrambling to find a combination of laws and policies to fill the gap that the Affordable Healthcare Act will leave behind. Ryan pushes for “accessibility” instead of universal coverage. Anyone who has worked directly with addicts knows that this isn’t enough. The out-of-pocket costs for treatment can be astronomical. For a quality treatment center, insurance is practically mandatory to defray the costs. And it is a life-and-death matter. Without treatment, many addicts and alcoholics will die. With every day that passes, another life is lost. Parents lose their children, children lose their parents. Families are torn apart. It is all preventable – but we need help to make it possible for everyone.
When I voted for Trump, I truly believed that he could make America great, and give every addict a chance to get sober. I saw a bright future. Now, I’m not so sure. If he wants to regain his supporters’ confidence, and prevent the drug epidemic from killing hundreds of thousands of Americans, he needs to make good on what he promised. Lower taxes, sure. But not at the cost of American lives.
Jeremy Broderick is a national recovery advocate and founder of Windward Way Recovery in Costa Mesa, California.
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