The guiding principle of NCAAR’s Public Policy Unit is to promote
an integrated public health approach to addiction and mental health.

For over 40 years, the NCAAR Public Policy Unit has dedicated itself to the development and passage of legislation that makes long-term recovery from behavioral health concerns possible. We work closely with elected officials on the state and national level to advance public policies that improve access to quality prevention, treatment, and recovery initiatives. These policies stand in stark contrast to the 50-year War on Drugs that led to mass incarceration, racial and socioeconomic inequities, and a system of punitive measures rather than the healing of individuals, families, and communities. NCAAR’s policy focus centers on the holistic health of the person, supportive community efforts to promote wellness, and creating a recovery-oriented environment to improve outcomes and cost effectiveness.

The Public Policy Unit collaborates with our Advocacy Leadership Program and other organizations to fulfill NCAAR’s mission of advocacy with and on behalf of those impacted by addiction.

NCAAR publishes a monthly Newsletter that identifies legislation of interest, Position Papers, Candidate Surveys, and priority bills. Sign up to receive the NCAAR Newsletter and other news and events.

Central Tenets of NCAAR Public Policy

Harm Reduction

Harm reduction principles are rooted in social justice and human rights. It refers to a range of strategies to reduce the negative, sometimes fatal, consequences associated with substance use disorder. The Public Policy Unit has long supported harm reduction policies to address addiction and championed bills related to improve access to Medication Assisted Treatment for substance use disorder; education and distribution of naloxone to reverse opioid overdoses; establishing syringe exchange programs; and decriminalization efforts, among others.

Recovery Oriented System of Care (ROSC)

A ROSC brings multiple systems together along the health and human services spectrum to foster hope, self-directed growth, and recovery capital. Recovery capital are the foundational elements essential to sustained recovery: access to employment, education, housing, social and family supports, and other social services. A ROSC goes beyond the acute-care model that focuses on the reduction of symptoms to encourage a full and meaningful integration into community life.


NCAAR, with the support of the Open Society Foundation and its partners, advocates for the decriminalization of personal possession of illicit substances, as the marijuana decriminalization victory parlayed. Our primer on decriminalization speaks to the far-reaching impact of ineffectual laws that criminalized people for using drugs, penalties that fell disproportionately on people of color and marginalized communities. The organizational statement on decriminalization illustrates the need for a less punitive approach.

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