The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) made history last weekend by passing a resolution calling for a public health approach to the problems of substance use and abuse (PDF). The resolution was sponsored by Mayor Rocky Anderson of Salt Lake City.
The resolution proclaims the war on drugs a failure, and calls for:
“a New Bottom Line in U.S. drug policy, a public health approach that concentrates more fully on reducing the negative consequences associated with drug abuse, while ensuring that our policies do not exacerbate these problems or create new social problems of their own.”
In adopting the resolution, the mayors proclaimed addiction a broad public health concern and endorsed specific health-related measures. These include greater access to drug treatment such as methadone and other maintenance therapies, elimination of the federal ban on funding sterile syringe access programs, and establishment of prevention policies based on needs assessed at the local level.
The resolution also calls for using a greater percentage of drug war funding to evaluate current programs’ efficacy and accountability. Rather than measure the success of U.S. drug policy by examining drug use levels or number of people imprisoned, a New Bottom Line should be used assessing how much drug-related harm is reduced. National drug policy should focus on reducing social problems like drug addiction, overdose deaths, the spread of HIV/AIDS from injection drug use, racial disparities in the criminal justice system, and the enormous number of nonviolent offenders behind bars. Federal drug agencies should be judged—and funded—according to their ability to meet these goals.
Moreover, since the impact of drug policies is most acutely felt in local communities, evaluation and decision-making must occur at the local level--and federal funding must be provided to enable communities to pursue those policies that best meet the unique challenges of substance abuse.
“The mayors are clearly signaling the serious need for drug policy reform, an issue that ranks in importance among the most serious issues of the day,” said Daniel Abrahamson, Director of Legal Affairs for DPA.
Adopted resolutions become the official policy of the USCM, which meets every year to promote the best practices and most pressing priorities of U.S. cities. Last weekend’s event was the 75th Annual USCM Meeting in Los Angeles, California.