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What price solvency?

September 1, 2010
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Has the term “cash-strapped” earned cliché status yet in the human-services world? Has a precarious budget picture become the new normal for most agencies? It certainly seems that few organizations these days can avoid tough decisions about how best to maintain the revenue streams necessary to fulfill their mission and to continue meeting their community's traditional and emerging needs.

Connecticut counselor Tom Greaney, a past Addiction Professional columnist, recently shared a story about a different kind of organization. Leaders of a youth football league in his state decided to raise money for team uniforms by holding a fundraising event for adults featuring scotch tastings and cigars. Greaney this summer penned a commentary in The Day newspaper in New London in which he urged parents to take a different approach to modeling behavior: Shun the scotch and share a dinner at home with the kids instead.

“Granted, the league needs money, but where might this end?” Greaney wrote. “How about stitching Joe Camel or Captain Morgan patches on the kids' jerseys?”

These kinds of discussions play out well beyond the local youth organization, of course. I've been wondering whether the challenging financial times that appear to have no end in sight are convincing more organizations in the substance use community to launch a discussion of entering financial arrangements with alcohol or tobacco companies.

An educator told me that this subject has come up in the home organization as it pertains to money that could be available to bolster student aid. Funds from a tobacco company, for example, could be seen as a classic case of “low-hanging fruit” for an institution that is seeing an erosion of its base for student financial assistance.

Yet it was feared that if such a company decided to use news of its donation as a centerpiece of its promotional activity, that ultimately could reflect poorly on the institution accepting the money. The idea was dropped. But it would seem inevitable to me that as organizations seek to identify any and all possible sources of funding for key initiatives, these discussions are bound to occur in many places.

Clearly for some organizations, a partnership with an entity such as the beverage industry might never make sense. It could be argued that there is no possible common ground between treatment providers, who are in the business of interventions that promote abstinence, and beverage companies that depend on steady sales of their products-and that thrive in communities where risky levels of use are prevalent.

I'm interested in your perspectives on how the current funding environment is shaping the discussion at your organization. Are there certain types of funding partnerships that your organization would always consider out of bounds? Could you envision a project on which you could work productively with alcohol or tobacco interests? Is prevention of underage drinking, for example, an area suited to this type of activity?

Send me your thoughts via e-mail to

genos@vendomegrp.com. I am always interested in your reaction to articles in the magazine, including this issue's main cover story on the DSM-5, as well as your thoughts about our online features and blog postings at

http://www.addictionpro.com. Become part of the dialogue by sharing your opinions, successes and challenges.

Gary A. Enos, Editor Addiction Professional 2010 September-October;8(5):6