Break the silence: UNITE to Face Addiction

Pat Taylor
Community Outreach Coordinator
UNITE to Face Addiction

On October 4, 2015, tens of thousands of people representing organizations and families from the prevention, treatment, criminal justice, health and recovery communities will convene on the National Mall in Washington, DC. We’re grateful to the National ATTC Network and NIATx for standing up as one of the founding partner organizations for the UNITE to Face Addiction rally and for your help in mobilizing people to join us.

We are coming together to let policymakers, the media and our friends and neighbors know that addiction is preventable and treatable, that far too many of those affected have been incarcerated, and that people can and do get well.  As a member of the ATTC Network, you are needed to ignite and grow a movement that will demand solutions to the addiction crisis.

One of our nation’s best-kept secrets is that long-term recovery from addiction is a reality for over 23 million Americans. Regardless of the paths people choose to achieve recovery, their lives and the lives of their families, friends, neighbors, co-workers and communities are vastly improved. People in recovery and their allies are the living proof that there are real solutions to the devastation of addiction.

Although millions prove that recovery is real, more than 350 lives are lost each day to alcohol and other drugs – some 135,000 people each year – more than who die from either homicides or motor vehicle accidents. Another 22 million Americans are still suffering from addiction and the majority never receive any help.

Where is the national outrage about this needless loss of life, the costs to families and the economy, and more importantly, the demand for solutions? It’s time to speak up about the failed policies and poor care due to long-standing stigma and discriminatory public policies. For too long, a great majority of people connected to addiction have remained silent.

The time is now to break that silence.

Why 2015 and Why Washington, D.C.?
  • The grassroots constituency that has developed over the last 15 years is organized
  • To build on greater acceptance of treating alcohol and other drug problems as health issues
  • Too many Americans lack access to the individualized treatment and other recovery support services they need to get their lives on track
  • Introduction of the bi-partisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) in Congress and other public policy initiatives to address addiction and discrimination
  • Across the political spectrum, there is an understanding that current rates of incarceration, including for alcohol- and other drug-related offenses, can’t be sustained
We’ve developed an array of resources that you can use to let other people know about UNITE to Face Addiction that can be downloaded from our web site. We also have a team of field organizers who are mobilizing people in communities across the country to get to Washington, DC for the rally on October 4 and for our Advocacy Day on Capital Hill on October 5. We’re going to make history when we demand solutions to the addiction crisis. Together, we can end the silence.

What you can do:
1. Go to and sign up to get updates and information about how you can get involved.
2. Contact the field organizer working in your state who is ready to help you mobilize.
3. Share your story about why you’re going to DC on our web page.
4. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter
5. Tell your friends that you’ll be in Washington, DC on 10.4.15 and ask them to join you!

See you in October!

Pat Taylor has over 40 years of experience developing and managing local and national public interest advocacy campaigns on a range of issues including healthcare, the environment, community development and philanthropy.  Most recently she served as Executive Director of Faces & Voices of Recovery from 2003-2014, where she led the development of the organization into the national voice of the organized addiction recovery community.

Marijuana Lit: Even more resources for SUD providers

Marijuana Lit: Fact Based Information to Assist you in Providing SUD Services launched in January this year with a goal: to supply SUD providers with the straightforward, accurate information about marijuana from trusted sources. The team at the ATTC Network Coordinating Office has  been busy adding new information and resources! 

Here's a quick recap of the most recent additions to the Marijuana Lit site, along with other ATTC activities related to marijuana use:

The changing healthcare landscape: tools for states and treatment providers

Todd Molfenter, PhD

Senior Scientist, Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies

Co-Deputy Director, NIATx

In this time of health system reform, states have had to plan for and implement dramatic changes, particularly in the way they purchase and provide addiction treatment services. The unprecedented amount of change has compromised states’ abilities to provide the full spectrum of technical assistance that addiction treatment programs may need to adapt to the changing environment (see Andrews et al., Health Affairs, 2015).

For the past several years, NIATx has led a range of SAMHSA-funded projects designed to help states make the transition to this new landscape. Lessons from earlier NIATx projects such STAR-SI and Advancing Recovery have helped inform these state-based initiatives. A recurring theme in the earlier projects was the key role that state purchasers of addiction treatment services play. That remains true with our current efforts. What we’re finding in our work is a set of competencies that states can develop to increase the viability of their publicly-funded addiction treatment systems.

Some states and treatment providers are focusing on administrative operations through SAMHSA’s BHBusiness Plus and other programs. The Strategic Provider Partnerships collaborative that we're now working on as part of BHBusiness Plus is helping three states (Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi) look at ways to strengthen their addiction treatment systems at both policy and service delivery levels. Other states (like Ohio and Missouri, to mention just two)  are focusing on use of evidence-based practices such as medication-assisted therapy to reduce the impact of opioid misuse. Through these efforts, it’s become increasingly clear that states want evidence of improved treatment access and clinical quality, regardless of their ACA status or how they pay for substance use disorder (SUD) services.

At the provider level many efforts are, or should be occurring, that states may or may not be able to support with technical assistance. These efforts start with better access to treatment for SUDs. As a recent news stories reported, people seeking help for an SUD continue to encounter barriers to treatment. With improving access, we’re talking about reducing wait times and adding weekend and evening hours, or open access. Improving access also involves helping people get connected to health insurance that will cover their treatment.

Another driving quality indicator within the context of the ACA is documented use of evidence-based practices that are supported by better retention and completion rates.

Ultimately, ensuring treatment agency viability will likely rely on their ability to engage third-party payers to pay for treatment services. This, in turn, is driving treatment agencies to hire staff who meet requirements for insurance reimbursement. Earning accreditation from organizations such as The Joint Commission or CARF International has also become a quality improvement priority for many treatment organizations. 
There are many instances of states supporting the adoption and proliferation of these competencies that improve access and quality. At the same time, providers are also pursuing these capabilities on their own through the many training and technical assistance tools that NIATx and the ATTC Network offer.

What has your state or treatment organization been doing to adapt to the changing healthcare environment?  Let us know in the comment section below. 

Todd Molfenter, PhD, is Deputy Director of NIATx and a Senior Scientist at the Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is currently a principal investigator for an NIH study focused on increasing use of buprenorphine in Ohio. Todd has led a variety of statewide projects designed to improve addiction treatment access and quality through system and organizational change efforts.  You can reach Todd at

Naitonal Hepatitis Testing Day: Ask the Expert, Corinna Dan

National Hepatitis Testing Day in the United States is part of an educational initiative of CDC's Division of  Viral Hepatitis and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services' Combating the Silent Epidemic of Viral Hepatitis: Action Plan for the Prevention, Care & Treatment of Viral Hepatitis, Updated 2014-2016 .

Corinna Dan, R.N., M.P.H., is Viral Hepatitis Policy Advisor, Office of HIV/AIDS and Infections Disease Policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In this role, she is working to implement the the Viral Hepatitis Action Plan, which aims to build awareness of new hepatitis C screening recommendations and treatments, as well as prevention, diagnosis, care and treatment for viral hepatitis now available under the Affordable Care Act. 

Here, Ms. Dan responds to questions about hepatitis C as part of our observation of Hepatitis Awareness Month, the launch of our the new ATTC resource, HCVCurrent, and  National Hepatitis Testing Day.

Mike Boyle: In Memoriam

The behavioral health field lost a great leader on May 7, 2015, with the sudden passing of Mike Boyle.

Mike’s nearly 40-year career at Fayette Companies (now known as The Human Service Center) in Peoria, Illinois was focused on improving the quality of care for people suffering from substance use and mental health disorders. From his start as a youth outreach worker, Mike went on to lead Fayette Companies as president and CEO. Upon his retirement, he joined the Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies at the UW-Madison as a Senior Innovation Officer. 

Under Mike’s leadership, Fayette Companies was among the nation’s first treatment agencies to test the NIATx model of process improvement, as part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Paths to Recovery project. One of Fayette Companies’ first NIATx change projects focused on increasing retention in treatment at the agency’s residential program for women. With Mike at the helm, NIATx tools and techniques became part of Fayette Companies organizational culture. Fayette Companies has contributed to the success of numerous NIATx projects as well as to the development of Addiction-CHESS. 

Mike loved to share his lessons with the field in writing, as a lead author or contributor to several scholarly articles published in peer-reviewed journals.  He wrote frequently for the NIATx E-news and the ATTC/NIATx Service Improvement Blog, and also served on the editorial board for The Bridge, the ATTC Network’s quarterly research e-zine.  Mike’s knowledge and experience appears in a range of NIATx publications, including Getting Started with Medication-Assisted Treatment, the NIATx Workbook, and The NIATx Third-Party Billing Guide, and NIATx: Process Improvement in Behavioral Health.

Mike often said that he was fortunate to work with NIATx and the Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies, but we were really fortunate to have him as one of our biggest champions. Here, some who worked closely with Mike share their thoughts on his commitment to quality care, innovation, and his lasting impact on the addiction treatment field:

"Know More Hepatitis" with HCVCurrent

"Maintaining my recovery while dealing with a diagnosis of Hepatitis C is a lot like juggling while walking a tightrope." Kimberly Walline, ATTC Network's In My Own Words Essay Contest, 2013

Kimberly’s story appears in the “In My Own Words” essay book, the result of the ATTC Network’s  Recovery Month 2013 essay contest. With Faces and Voices of Recovery, the Hepatitis C Association, the Harm Reduction Coalition, and Help4Hep, our  Recovery Month partners that year, we invited essays from people who are coping with Hepatitis C and also in recovery from a substance use disorder or mental illness.

Medication-assisted treatment: an update from Missouri

In the April 2015 NIATx E-news, Mike Boyle shared results of recent studies on use of medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Overall results suggest that a lot of work remains to be done in order for MAT to gain wide acceptance.

But MAT is firmly established in states like Missouri, which was among the first states to make a commitment to providing MAT.

Mark Stringer, Director, Division of Behavioral Health at the Missouri Department of Mental Health (DMH) says his state’s involvement with a NIATx program, Advancing Recovery (AR) helped build the foundation the MAT program that exists toda. Stringer also serves as the state's Single State Authority.