Prominent recovery advocate Tom Coderre's whirlwind career in national organizations, state politics and the federal government experienced a much-needed hiatus with the change in administration in January. But it didn't take long for a role in addiction recovery to beckon again.
Coderre has joined the Altarum Institute as senior advisor to its Behavioral Health Technical Assistance Center, where he will prioritize an effort to incorporate best-practices approaches to recovery into the research and consulting organization's work with government entities.
With so much attention being paid to strategies for combating the opioid crisis, Coderre says it is critical to ensure that recovery support services—the availability of which he has seen as pivotal to his own recovery—become an integral part of those solutions. Treatment services are of course essential, Coderre tells Addiction Professional, but “you're throwing good money after bad when your focus is on only one component of the equation.”
Having been involved in many landmark national developments in his most recent role as a senior adviser at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), from the drafting of a Surgeon General's report on addiction to the adoption of recovery-focused legislation in Congress, Coderre also considers it important to redouble efforts to preserve gains made during the Obama administration.
“Nobody wants to see the clock turned backward on any of the progress that has been made,” he says. (This received an added dose of urgency for many advocates this week when the U.S. House narrowly voted in favor of a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.)
That sentiment also was evident in a statement from Altarum Institute president and CEO Lincoln Smith in addressing Coderre's hiring. “We are at an important juncture in the behavioral health system and its response to the opioid epidemic,” Smith said. “We cannot continue to do business as usual.”
Appeal of new role
Coderre says the institute's synthesis of education, program development, and its own generated research played a large part in his decision to go there. He adds that the institute will give him an opportunity to be deliberative in a way that some of his other jobs by definition could not.
In an e-mail communication to friends and colleagues last week, Coderre wrote of his move, “I wanted to continue to strengthen policies and programs so that more people can find and sustain their recovery like I have.” He said of the institute, “Their mission is to create a better, more sustainable future for all Americans by applying research-based and field-tested solutuons that transform our systems of health and health care.”
His recent work in Washington looks on the surface to be a tough act to follow, given that he served as senior adviser to the assistant secretary at SAMHSA at a time of unprecedented national attention to treatment and recovery needs. He termed what was accomplished during the previous administration as “remarkable,” also citing numerous events in which President Obama himself attempted to place a personal imprint on the issue.
“Some of it was publicity,” he says, addressing the view of skeptics. “But we know that the way to break down negative public attitudes is to be open and to be public about these things.”
Coderre, who will work out of the institute's Rockville, Md., office, has held numerous roles in the government and advocacy sectors, including chief of staff to the president of the Rhode Island State Senate and national field director at Faces & Voices of Recovery.
On May 4 at 2 p.m., Eastern time, the institute will host a 30-minute live chat on Facebook in which Coderre will discuss the opioid crisis and other topics and will take questions.