Scientific American published an article highlighting the disparity of access to treatment for Black Americans due to access inequality during the opioid epidemic. “During 10 brutal years, opioid and stimulant deaths have increased 575 percent among Black Americans. In 2019 the overall drug overdose death rate among Black people exceeded that of whites for the first time: 36.8 versus 31.6 per 100,000.” Climbing fatalities lead to increased child and family bereavement, particularly with loss of a primary caregiver. SAMHSA reported that in 2021, 77% of clients receiving federal grant funded assistance were white. On average, Black patients wait five years longer than their white counterparts and are half as likely to seek or gain access to treatment as white patients.
As Congress seeks to reauthorize substance use treatment programs and pass behavioral health legislation, it is imperative that they prioritize addressing racial and ethnic disparities.
By Chris Bennett, Policy Intern