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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

White House Event Highlights Policy Success on Substance Use Disorder

December 1, 2016 | Addictions | Comments
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On Wednesday, the White House held the final event in its Making Health Care Better Series – a series dedicated to highlighting progress and successes made during the Obama Administration. The event – which focused on strides made in substance use disorder treatment – featured three panels, reflecting on successes the field has made as well as challenges and opportunities for success moving forward.


  • Surgeon General’s Report on Addiction: Panelists throughout the event expressed their excitement about the release of the Surgeon General’s recent report on addiction. Most comments centered on how it is the next step in changing the conversation about addiction, especially in audiences outside of the field.
  • Dedication to preserving and growing the field’s bipartisan successes: The successes of the last few years are plentiful: expanding access to mental health and addictions treatment, securing and enforcing parity for all health insurance plans, expanding access to medication-assisted treatment, continued devotion to and funding of scientific research.
    • Throughout the event there were continued references to the widespread and bipartisan support for these issues in Congress. There was a strong expectation that such bipartisanship will continue into 2017. The National Council continues to work closely with champions on both sides of the aisle in our efforts to sustain and grow these initiatives.
  • Call to Action: There was great excitement from and praise of advocates for their work in securing the passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. Multiple panelists referenced continued and sustained advocacy efforts that must occur in order to secure full funding of the law. The second and third panels consisted of advocates and practitioners in the field who both called for greater advocacy and education. As the community begins to prepare for 2017, the message was to focus on education about the mental illness and addiction, the difficulties families face in accessing appropriate and timely care, and effective solutions that could help families and save lives.
  • Michael Botticelli: Each speaker and panelists gave high praise to the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy Michael Botticelli for the work he and his team have done over the last two years to aid these tremendous efforts.

Overall, there was no announcement of new policies or new initiatives from any of the panels.

Of most importance to National Council members, federal-level administrators detailed where they saw the best policy and practice opportunities moving forward. These opportunities included:

  • Expansion of medication-assisted treatments, including SAMHSA’s prescriber training related to these medications as well as the recently released CDC guidelines for prescribers issuing opioids for chronic paid. SAMHSA spoke about opportunities to continue educating providers and prescribers about opioids. CDC laid out its plans to continue educating medical school students and providers on its guidelines for prescribing opioids for chronic pain.
  • Investment in and discovery of new technologies for treating opioid and heroin addiction. Representatives from the National Institute of Drug Abuse spoke about the future of medicine and medical research. This included new treatment therapies currently being created, non-addictive pain medications and the development of a vaccine to treatment heroin and opioid dependence.
  • Continued education of addiction as a disease and what that means for public health advocates. Beginning with the Surgeon General’s report, representatives from SAMHSA, CDC and HHS all spoke about education and awareness in the years ahead. Efforts will be fixed on increasing knowledge about addiction as a disease and not a moral failing or a criminal justice issue.
  • Creative investment in the behavioral health workforce, working to broaden the practicing pool among qualified medical professionals in addition to increasing the number of trained medical professionals entering the field. Through many of the agencies represented, there are appropriated federal dollars toward building the workforce.
  • Continued education and advocacy of resources for prevention, treatment and recovers. Each agency representative spoke about the power and necessity of constituent advocacy and storytelling. Many spoke about how the progress that has been made the last 8 years has been due in large part to the outreach of organized and committed constituent advocates. For the field to move forward in the future, that organization and commitment to the cause must continue.

Click here for a list of panelists from the event.