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Speakers Don't Mince Words

June 30, 2008
by Gary Enos
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It shouldn't surprise anyone that at a conference devoted to improving quality in addiction treatment organizations, some of the most respected leaders in the field carried the message of "change or die" to attendees. A second-day plenary session at the State Associations of Addiction Services/Network for the Improvement of Addiction Treatment conference featured more than a few ominous-sounding comments from the impressive panel. SAMHSA Administrator Terry Cline, PhD, told the audience, "I don't believe there ever will be enough resources to close that [treatment] gap if we keep providing services the way we are." He proceeded to discuss the importance of experimenting with process improvements (SAMHSA is doing that in its own operations) and partnering with primary care as physicians begin to engage in screening and brief intervention for patients' substance use problems. David H. Gustafson, PhD, the Network's director, pointed out an unfortunate statistical distinction between addiction treatment and other health disciplines: 73% of addiction service costs are labor costs. "I don't think it's sustainable, folks," he said of that level. And A. Thomas McLellan, PhD, chairman and CEO of the Treatment Research Institute, who has delivered many recent talks on how the specialty treatment field needs to broaden its focus beyond the most seriously ill clients, also called for more integration with "mainstream" health care. One of his comments about the specialty field's responsibility to treat the sickest of the sick hit particularly hard. "Addiction treatment programs are the new housing projects," he declared.



Is mental health treatment included in the comparison to addiction treatment's 73% costs being labor costs?

I'm very curious. Do you have an actual percentage for labor costs in mental health treatment (where an addiction is not the primary diagnosis)?

Thank you.

Lynn A Koch, ACSW, LCSW

It seems to me that the failure of this field to address the treatment of drug addiction in our communities is due primarily to the focus on symptoms and symptomatic cures rather than good health.

Healthy individuals dont have drug problems and dont develop drug problems. Drug problems develop from imbalances created by unhealthy diets, unhealthy lifestyles and unhealthy habits/ideas about how the world works.

To address these problems from the hypocritical standpoint of drugging the drug users with different drugs to assuage the addicted individuals yearning for another quick fix seems to me like a money making approach for drug dealers and rug companies (dealers) rather than a wholistic community health approach which would necessitate a view of drugs as extreme food stuffs rather than a seperate class which must be denied and abolished all together.

You cant fix adicted individuals through any means other than dietary and spiritual / emotional growth and development.

Integration with primary care is a great thing, but I just don't think that discipline is really ready to fully address these problems.

Gary Enos


Gary Enos


Gary A. Enos has been the editor of Addiction Professional since its inception. He also...

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