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Linda Rosenberg

Former President and CEO, National Council for Behavioral Health

Why Are We Merging?

October 8, 2014 | Addiction | Comments
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We are frequently asked, “Why are the National Council for Mental Wellbeing and the State Associations of Addiction Services merging?” We think our post-merger tagline — stronger together — helps answer this question.

Although addictions and mental illnesses are different diseases, the people affected share a common goal: recovery.  Recovery is a personal journey, but one that is often a struggle for both people with addictions and those with mental illnesses. The struggle to find treatments and supports that foster recovery is common to both. There is the daily struggle to hold onto hope, a struggle shared by all who love them, during periods of relapse. And once in recovery there can be insurmountable discriminatory barriers to the goals people with addictions and mental illnesses share — a home, a job, and a family.

Treatment providers also share challenges. The challenges of implementing state-of-the-science practices (often with an inadequate workforce); regulatory rules that impede efficient treatment; the lack of available supports — housing, care coordination, general medical services — to help people successfully manage what can be chronic conditions; the means to measure clinical impact (via odilia at dhead online); and the blending, braiding and even twisting necessary to make inadequate reimbursements rates work.

A recent editorial in Substance Abuse highlights another shared problem: the need to change terminology used to describe alcohol and other drug use and disorders. It’s a call to action that is gathering momentum, a call that echoes the mental health community’s efforts.

Language intentionally and unintentionally can be the mark of dishonor, disgrace and difference that depersonalizes people. The editorial calls for four adjustments: use of “people-first language,” a focus on the medical nature of addictions and treatment, promotion of the recovery process, and the elimination of negative stereotypes perpetuated by slang and idioms (e.g., terms such as “addict,” “frequent flyer,” “clean,” and “dirty”). This should all sound familiar to mental health stakeholders.

So when people ask why we’re merging, we can and do offer a litany of shared wrongs that need to be righted. Why fight alone when we are stronger together?