Today, the National Partnership for Women & Families released a new report which finds that national paid family and medical leave would improve the health and security of more than 20 million people who are experiencing a substance use disorder in the United States.
The report comes as Congress and advocates across the nation fight to enact a nationwide paid family and medical leave program for all workers. Such a policy would have a broad impact on the United States healthcare system, which is buckling under the pressure of the coronavirus pandemic and the rising number of Americans struggling with persistent substance use.
“Substance use disorder is a public health crisis,” said Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families. “We must address it through more comprehensive care, not criminalization. By providing hard-working Americans, especially those who earn lower incomes and people of color, with the ability to take time off to address chronic health conditions without losing a paycheck, paid family, and medical leave will have a meaningful impact on the lives of tens of millions of people and their families.”
Sustained economic stress, social stigma from the medical community, and fear of criminalization all contribute to untreated substance use disorder. Women, who make up the majority of frontline workers in fields like health care, critical retail, and social work, are more likely to develop a substance use disorder than other workers.
In addition to passing comprehensive paid leave, the report calls on lawmakers to increase funding for social safety net programs, integrate mental health services and implicit bias training into federally funded healthcare programs, and pass the Emergency Support for Substance Use Disorders Act (S.166/H.R.706) and the Family Support Services for Addiction Act (S.485/H.R.433), which expand access to treatment programs, especially for pregnant people and people of color. A fact sheet accompanies the report.