Failed Status Quo
Nobody has written with more compassion and eloquence about the history of addiction and treatment in the United States than our friend, William White. His watershed work, SLAYING THE DRAGON – The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America is the definitive source.
It’s not a pretty picture. It chronicles generations of silence, darkness, confusion, despair, ignorance, prejudice and inconsistent, sometimes even unconscionable, service delivery. It also describes countless well-intentioned efforts by wonderful and compassionate visionaries to raise the bar in the areas of comprehension, treatment and recovery.
We believe that the public sector and the traditional treatment, recovery and addiction fields cannot solve these problems. While there are thousands of sincere and accomplished individuals working in these areas, many saving lives every day, the systems in which they operate are fatally flawed.
Disconnected Public Sector
The public sector is comprised of an impressive sounding hodgepodge of alphabet soup acronyms, spending billions each year, delivering legacy services married to yesterday’s fee-for-service reimbursement model to a fraction of the people who need help.
About the only thing one can learn from a serious look at their websites is that they can’t even agree on common language or objectives. Even the names of some of these agencies contribute to the problem by using words known more for their offensiveness than for their clinical foundation.
The treatment, recovery and addiction fields are so fragmented as to render collective purpose impossible. For example, there are thousands of organizations providing treatment services in the U.S., operating with no clear standards, inconsistent (even contradictory) service models and virtually no agreement on the problem they are trying to solve, the language they use or the standards they use to define success.
This fragmentation is likely rooted in the disjointed way treatment services are funded, the marginalization of addiction in the health care system and other failures of the field.
No Consumer Focus
Confusion and fragmentation in the treatment field make it nearly impossible for those who desperately need help to find it. The consumer has been lost in the race to design service delivery systems that follow yesterday’s dysfunctional reimbursement system.
When Jerry Maguire so famously declared, “Show me the money!”, he may as well have been talking about today’s treatment industry.
Over 85 organizations identify themselves as Recovery Community Organizations. They provide services and resources to those in recovery, but do not focus on system-wide change, implement far-reaching, societal programs to eliminate stigma, or offer value propositions to employers and other stakeholders that return a sustainable stream of private-sector-based funding.
They are limited in scope and remain dependent on public sector funding. Overall, these organizations, while contributing in other areas, add to the fragmented nature of our nation’s addiction treatment and recovery infrastructure.