California Medical Association Passes Six Drug Policy Reform Resolutions
Seven drug policy reform resolutions were passed by the nearly 400 California Medical Association delegates at their meeting on March 13 in San Francisco. It was a clean sweep for a reform agenda endorsed in whole or in part by groups such as the San Francisco Medical Society and The Lindesmith Center.
"The Lindesmith Center applauds the California Medical Association for its leadership in these important areas," said Daniel Abrahamson, Director of Legal Affairs for the Lindesmith Center. "It's time our national policies moved toward health-related measures that reduce the harm associated with illegal drugs, rather than simply focusing on punitive measures that often worsen drug problems. CMA's adoption of these resolutions sends a strong message to policy makers that changes are necessary."
Two resolutions by Dr. Mitchell Katz, San Francisco Director of Public Health, call for non-prescription pharmacy sales of syringes and for controlled trials of take-home Naloxone, an antidote to heroin overdose currently administered in hospital settings.
A resolution supporting office-based physician-prescribed methadone as a means of allowing greater access to methadone treatment was authored by Dr. David Smith, founder and CEO of Haight-Ashbury Free Medical Clinics and past president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Dr. Smith also wrote a resolution calling for jails and prisons to provide methadone to addicts, in order to prevent transmission of HIV and other infectious diseases spread by injection.
Drs. Jack McCarthy of Sacramento and John Mendelson of UCSF introduced a resolution urging federal and state law enforcement agencies "to respond to cases of heroin overdose like other types of medical emergencies and to develop, implement, and publicize policies that will encourage individuals to call paramedics in cases of heroin overdose." A second resolution by Drs. McCarthy and Mendelson calls for an end to the categorical exclusion of methadone users from liver transplant lists.
The delegates also approved a resolution by Drs.Gary Jaeger and David Breithaupt advocating for coverage of substance abuse disorders by all health care benefit plans.