Stuart Gitlow, MD
| February 15, 2013
As the Chairman of ASAM's Board, I have the privilege of sitting on the Board of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. Founded by Marty Mann and with over 100 affiliates throughout the US, NCADD has played a key role in the development of the addiction treatment community. NCADD has a policy development group, a medical-scientific committee, and an annual meeting. Interestingly, though, other than my presence on the Board, there is no formal relationship between ASAM and NCADD, which act in parallel with very similar goals. I have taken the first step toward mending this breach by offering the NCADD Board a chance to assign a liaison to participate in our Board meetings. Since that offer was made, NCADD has already participated in a recent ASAM Board teleconference. I view this as a significant step forward, but I believe there is much more that we can accomplish.
This past week, I had the chance to meet with the Executive Director of NASADAD, the National Association of State Alcohol/Drug Abuse Directors. They too have an annual meeting, and their basic purpose is to "foster and support the development of effective alcohol and other drug abuse prevention and treatment programs throughout every State." NASADAD's bylaws specifically encourage a promotion of training within the field, a focus on translating research and knowledge into practice, and attention to shaping public policy positions that advance the state of addiction treatment. As I flew home from Washington after that meeting, I sat next to a group of people who had just attended the CADCA meeting. Thousands of attendees had been at the National Leadership Forum. But what is CADCA, I asked.
CADCA is the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, a group that for 20 years has been representing the interests of more than 5000 community coalitions throughout the country, and which now terms itself the nation's leading drug abuse prevention organization. And although there is an MD on CADCA's Board of Directors, there is no formal relationship between CADCA and the addiction medicine community.
I could go on, noting the presence of Faces and Voices of Recovery, NAADAC, AATOD, AMERSA, AAAP, and the International Nurses Society on Addictions as further examples. The latter group is holding its 37th annual conference later this year. Missing in action, however, has been a true public face in the addiction world. Gary Mendell aims to correct that oversight, as he addressed the Clinton Foundation's 2013 Health Matters Conference recently with respect to his goals with www.Brianswish.org.
But at the end of the day we still have an illness that directly impacts well over 15% of our population and with the direction things are going with marijuana it is likely to have an even greater health and economic impact upon our society than ever before. And we have a dozen or two large organizations with overlapping missions and visions. While many of these groups cooperate informally and formally through coalitions on policy issues such as parity and ACA, there have been no regular meetings of Board Chairs. There have been no world congresses on addiction where we all get together at one time.
I'd like to see this oversight fixed. I want to reach out to my counterparts at the other groups and begin the discussions. But I'd prefer to do this with a major goal in mind. What I'm picturing, is putting the building blocks in place to hold a US Congress on Addiction sometime in the next four to five years. This Congress would be, a single conference that would include and incorporate the annual meetings of major groups in the field, that would bring all the players together at one time to discuss policy, to hold educational sessions, to work on terminology, to address turf issues, and to respond to the growing problems with as much of a single voice as we can muster. We would include the scientific, medical, research, payer, recovery, and both public and private communities and related organizations. While there are many logistical, business and other details to sort out, we need to set our sights high.
ASAM has had some big goals over the past few years, among which have been parity and board certification. I raised another, a diagnostic manual, last time. And here is one more - the concept of bringing the entire field together to achieve a true working relationship, improved outreach, and a genuine network for the benefit of our patients with addiction.