Saturday, December 16, 2017

"Nobody builds walls better than me."

On December 6th and 7th I was at an Opioid Symposium sponsored by the Health and Human Services Department.  Its title was “Connecting Data to Save Lives.” The Symposium was followed by a Code-A-Thon, a 24 hour event which brought teams of select invitees from all over the United States to develop data-driven solutions to the opioid epidemic using big data, machine learning, and technology. The Code-a-Thon teams participating in the overnight event searched for ways to improve access to treatment and recovery services and for ways to better identify at-risk populations for early and effective intervention using a huge database provided by HHS.  In short, they were using evidence and science-based methodology to help improve outcomes for an epidemic that threatens a vulnerable population of our citizenry. Learn more about the event here:

The Center for Disease Control is a part of the Health and Human Services Department.  I am baffled by the Trump administration’s ban on the CDC using the words or phrases “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based,” and “science-based.”

According to the Washington Post, senior CDC officials gave policy analysts the list of words during a meeting Thursday in Atlanta and told them they could not use those exact terms in any official documents being prepared for the 2019 budget being put together next year.

“Nobody builds walls better than me.” – President Donald J. Trump

In the past year I’ve written and said in more than one speech, “…in our common battle with addiction our biggest obstacle is a wall. It is the wall of stigma that hems us in and blocks the path toward long overdue change. It is a wall constructed of bigotry, discrimination, judgment, ignorance, shame, and fear. It is our responsibility to sound a clarion call, over and over, louder and louder, longer and longer, until – like the Biblical Joshua – we bring that wall tumbling down. Tumbling down to reveal an enlightened path of compassion on the other side, a path that becomes a road to recovery for all.”

Despite all the talk from the White House the President has done far more to reinforce the wall of stigma than he has to build a path of compassion. He is a disease out of control.  There are good people in government who want to make lives better.  People working to make lives better.  I’ve seen them in action.  There are clearly talented, willing citizens who want to assist.  We cannot, must not, let an ill- tempered, ill-advised braggart divide us or separate us from those who would help us heal.         

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