Blog and Updates

Learn more about our work to transform how our communities deal with the disease of addiction. 

Integrating  medical care is not a new idea. One of the oldest and best-known examples is the Mayo Clinic.

That said, integrating behavioral health with primary care services is a great idea whose time has come and is long overdue. Each day, as this type of integration evolves, whether through accountable care organizations, health homes or other approaches to integrating care, enormous value will be created.

I’ve been blessed once again this week with the opportunity to work with the family of a very sick young man in desperate need of help. I hope never to lose the sense of gratitude I have for such opportunities.  At the same time, however, I am also reminded of how much is wrong with today’s system of dealing with addiction.

Last week, USA Today published a heartfelt Op/Ed piece authored by our good friend, Senator George McGovern, who lamented, “little meaningful progress against this disease” in the 17 years since losing his daughter, Terry, to addiction.  He pointed out the, “fundamental failures in today’s system of care”, and acknowledged the psychological barriers of fear, stigma and shame that keep millions of Americans away from the help they need.

Today’s recovery revolution is the most significant development in decades in the fields of addiction, treatment and recovery.  People in recovery are organizing and mobilizing and service delivery systems are being transformed in communities across the country.  Even those charged with administering the public sector have come around to the notion of emphasizing recovery.  I have great respect for the thought leaders and practitioners who’ve taught us so much.

Today’s status quo is not acceptable. We live in the most advanced civilization in history and yet we haven’t figured out how to solve our greatest public health challenge; addiction. 23 Million Americans suffer from addiction and only about 10% get the help they need any given year and those who do are oftentimes provided with time-constrained episodes of acute care. Something has got to change. 

What are our natural instincts when a family member acquires a potentially fatal chronic disease?  Love?  Fear?  Compassion?  Understanding?  Sadness?  Empathy?

We may even feel like we are walking in the shoes of the afflicted member as they attempt to learn new tools to manage their chronic condition.

These days, we know that roughly 23 Million Americans suffer from something called substance use disorder, a term that is defined in much detail by medical professionals primarily for billing and reimbursement purposes.  The criteria referenced in the definition relate almost exclusively to the consumption or the effects of consumption of a substance.  They are also time-limited.  In other words, if one hasn’t met the criteria for the last 12 months, they no longer qualify.