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Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Bob Weiner / Jennifer de Vallance
202-395-6618
January 19, 2001

WHITE HOUSE DRUG POLICY ACTING DIRECTOR JURITH CALLS DOD'S PROVIDING SUBSTANCE ABUSE "PARITY" IN MILITARY HEALTH CARE SYSTEM "HISTORIC" AND "MAJOR STEP"; ASSERTS "THERE MUST BE NO WRONG DOOR"

Washington, D.C.—The Department of Defense (DoD) has taken steps to enhance access to treatment for mental illness and substance use disorders under DoD's TRICARE Health System. The Department's new initiative to eliminate patient co-pays for active duty TRICARE Prime family members who seek care from civilian network sources affords these beneficiaries care at no cost. This new access includes care for mental health and substance use disorders - "a major step toward making parity coverage a reality for all Americans," according to Office of National Drug Control Policy Acting Director Edward H. Jurith. (Under parity substance use disorders are subject to the same benefit levels as other medical conditions.)

Jurith said today: "The Federal government is taking an historic leadership role. Today's announcement, coupled with the Office of Personnel Management's commitment to provide parity for approximately 9 million federal workers, means that nearly 12 million more people will have access to substance abuse treatment. Parity will improve public understanding of addiction, increase access to care, bring drug treatment into the mainstream of health care, and reduce suffering for millions of Americans.

"This action supports the nation's goal to reduce drug use. Parity is an important element of drug control policy. There must be 'no wrong door' for entering substance abuse treatment programs. The National Drug Control Strategy's goal of reducing drug use by 50 percent in ten years can only be accomplished with a significant expansion of capacity to treat addictive disorders."

Acting Director Jurith noted that parity can help close the treatment capacity gap and reduce the overall burden to society. "At present, only 50 percent of adults and 20 percent of kids in immediate need of treatment receive the care they require. Without parity, we will continue paying the high cost of medical care by waiting to treat the long-term physical and psychological effects of substance use disorders. Illegal drugs cost our society approximately $112 billion each year in social and economic costs. Drug treatment results in decreased drug use and crime, improved social functioning, and reduced transmission of disease."

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