Truth Decay, Opioid Settlement Funds, Veterans Health Care: RAND Weekly Recap

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October 23, 2020

We discuss why "Truth Decay" is the existential threat of our time; how to spend opioid settlement funds to save the most lives; helping veterans overcome the invisible wounds of war; why China has so few friends; who should pay for disaster losses; and programs that are promoting social and emotional learning in and out of the classroom.

A compass pointing to facts, image by frankpeters/Getty Images

Image by frankpeters/Getty Images

Fighting Back Against Truth Decay

Truth Decay, the diminishing role of facts and analysis in American public life, cuts much deeper than any political party or demographic. It's the existential threat of our time, says RAND president and CEO Michael Rich. In a new commentary, he explains how the “civic disease” of Truth Decay has led Americans to disengage; fueled distrust in democratic institutions; and enfeebled the U.S. response to the pandemic, climate change, domestic terrorism, and more.

Fortunately, there are reasons for optimism: America has survived bouts with Truth Decay before. And none of them ended without a renewed faith in objective analysis to guide public policy. That's exactly what RAND is striving for now, says Rich.

Pill bottle with pills spilled out of it, photo by Moussa81/Getty Images

Photo by Moussa81/Getty Images

How Opioid Settlement Funds Can Be Spent to Save the Most Lives

Yesterday, the U.S. Justice Department announced an $8 billion settlement with OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma for the company's role in the opioid crisis. According to RAND experts, money from such a settlement could quickly save lives and mitigate lifelong harms, but it must be carefully allocated. To do the most good, the money should go toward expanding access to the overdose-reversal drug naloxone; supporting needle exchange programs and supervised injection facilities; providing more effective treatment; and helping mothers and children.

Group of adults riding bikes together with an American flag attached to the front bike

Photo by Bush Institute CC BY-NC-ND 2.0/Paul Morse

What Does High-Quality Care Mean for Veterans with Invisible Wounds?

Veterans often experience symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury long after their military service ends. These invisible wounds of war can have a significant negative effect on veterans and their families. High-quality care can help, but many veterans have difficulty accessing it. A new RAND study seeks to establish a universal definition of high-quality care for PTSD and TBI. This could improve coordination among organizations that serve veterans and provide a model for effective treatment.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping walk during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, June 5, 2019, photo by Maxim Shipenkov/Pool/Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Kremlin, June 5, 2019

Photo by Maxim Shipenkov/Pool/Reuters

China's Friends Are Few and Unreliable

China and the United States are actively shoring up their diplomatic relationships in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. Washington has fared quite well. But Beijing's “belligerent tone, muscular foreign policy, and near-constant saber rattling have won it no new friends,” says RAND's Derek Grossman. China's partnerships are with pariah states that are unreliable, unimportant, or both. This presents a major challenge for China as great-power competition ramps up.

Two cars after they were destroyed by a tornado in Washington, Illinois, November 19, 2013

Two cars destroyed by a tornado in Washington, Illinois, November 19, 2013

Photo by Jeff Haynes/Reuters

When Disaster Strikes, Who Should Cover the Losses?

Paying for losses from floods, fires, hurricanes, and other hazards has traditionally been a state and local function. But over time, this responsibility has shifted to the federal government. According to RAND experts, as the frequency and severity of disasters increase—along with the losses they cause—it may be time to reconsider how risk is shared. The researchers suggest four approaches that could shift some responsibility back to state and local entities, helping encourage more resilient planning and building practices.

Children sit on the floor listening in a group, photo by Stephanie Drenka/Big Thought Eva Kali/AdobeStockPhoto by Stephanie Drenka/Big Thought Eva Kali/AdobeStock

Photo by Stephanie Drenka/Big Thought Eva Kali/AdobeStock

Promoting Social and Emotional Learning, in and Out of the Classroom

How do children benefit when both schools and out-of-school time programs collaborate to improve social and emotional learning? And what does it take to build this kind of partnership? To find out, RAND researchers conducted one of the most-comprehensive SEL implementation studies to date that follows programs in six different communities. Early findings offer lessons that may be useful to school districts and out-of-school time providers looking to offer their own programs.

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