Top Physicians and Lawyers Join Forces
to Focus Nation’s Drug Policies on What Works
Physicians and Lawyers for National Drug Policy: A Public Health Partnership Launches at the National Press Club
April 20, 2004 – Leaders from both the medical and legal professions joined together today to launch Physicians and Lawyers for National Drug Policy: A Public Health Partnership (PLNDP). This union brings together our nation’s leading physicians and attorneys to promote a public health approach to the country’s substance abuse policies at both the federal and state levels.
The initiative, funded by the JEHT and Robert Wood Johnson Foundations, and building on the earlier work of Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy, is organized around the belief that effective policies for alcohol and other drugs must be grounded in data, not politics. The “new” PLNDP will advocate for evidence-based policy decisions and will encourage local innovation by establishing stable professional partnerships in every state and by supporting community coalitions.
For the first time, physicians and lawyers, often viewed as squaring off in policy debates, have joined forces to make a concerted effort to move the national conversation beyond the often misleading and polarizing policy debates of the past. Leaders of PLNDP explained that America’s drug policy has too frequently missed the mark, and that the national interest requires a largely new, pragmatic and nonpartisan approach.
According to Co-Chair George D. Lundberg, MD, Editor-in-Chief of Medscape General Medicine from WebMD, past policy efforts were not comprehensive in their approach. “Too often, the debate has been centered on the blame game. By crossing the traditional professional lines, we hope to harness the energies and resources of lawyers and physicians, who ultimately are two of the largest stakeholders in the treatment process,” he said. “This is ER meets Law & Order for drug policy.”
“Only by utilizing a scientifically-based and evidence-driven approach will we be able to mount a more effective drug policy,” said Richard J. Bonnie, JD, a University of Virginia law professor, who co-chairs the new group. “We’d like to see less ideology and more science. We want to know what works, not what sounds best in a campaign speech,” he said.
The event, held at the National Press Club, featured frontline practitioners Glenn Ivey, JD, State’s Attorney for Prince Georges County, Maryland, and Samir Fakhry, MD, Chief of Trauma at Inova Fairfax Hospital, Virginia who shared their first-hand professional experiences and called for a greater emphasis on treatment.
PLNDP officials announced three specific policy objectives that they will be promoting. They will advocate for widespread alcohol screening in trauma centers and emergency rooms because about half of these patients have been drinking when they were injured. Alcohol counseling at this “teachable moment” has been shown to be effective, they said. PLNDP will also support policies that emphasize treatment rather than incarceration of non-violent offenders who have drug problems. The group will also seek to remove many unnecessary legal and financial barriers to treatment for people addicted to alcohol and other drugs.
“This is an example of how physicians and lawyers working together can improve our nation’s drug policy,” said Professor Bonnie, who recently chaired a major study on underage drinking for the National Academy of Sciences.
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Originally formed in 1997 by 37 surgeons general, secretaries of health, deans of major medical schools and other leading physicians, the non-partisan group was established to advocate for a public health approach to drug abuse and addiction.
Today, the new PLNDP is a non-partisan group of the nation’s leading physicians and attorneys, whose goal is to promote and support public policy and treatment options that are scientifically-based, evidence-driven, and cost-effective.