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Linda Rosenberg

Former President and CEO, National Council for Behavioral Health

So Far, So Good … Addictions Get Their Due

February 17, 2016 | Uncategorized | Comments
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February 2016 has been a good month. A good month for advocates, organizations that provide treatment and services, and most importantly, a good month for people with addictive disorders. Our struggles and the struggles of people in recovery are producing results.

The White House asked for an additional $1.1 billion to fight opioid addiction. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the Comprehensive Addictions and Recovery Act and the full Senate and the House are expected to do the same. And The New York Times published a two part series on addictions. What these all have in common is a shift from treating addiction as an acute disorder to an understanding that this often chronic condition requires more than an inpatient stay. Addictions require an array of longer-term, sometimes even lifetime, community treatments and supports.

Science has taught us that successful treatment for addiction means delivering some of the same approaches as other chronic conditions – diabetes, asthma and, yes, serious mental illness. A model substance use disorder benefit in Medicaid and commercial insurance encompasses the full continuum including access to FDA-approved medications; inpatient, residential and outpatient treatments; and recovery supports. Recovery supports are critical and include coaching, case management, housing and as The New York Times highlights, even smart phone technology.

This approach is not new to National Council member organizations that are always trying to cobble together the pieces. What’s different is that those who control the purse are paying attention.

The New York Times series features two member organizations that are trying to do it right (both CEOs Ray Tamasi and Nancy Paull are National Council Awards of Excellence honorees – we know talent when we see it). To quote Ray, “If you look at the data, it’s pretty compelling about the detox-rehab churn. People go away for a month. It’s supposed to be magical and it’s not. The successful transition from inpatient to outpatient is abysmal.”

We’ve known for a long time we could do better and so have people struggling with addictions and their families. Maybe now we can do better.