ASAM Chapters to Address Issues Developing in Addiction

Several ASAM state and regional chapters will meet during the Med-Sci Conference to address issues ranging from the impact of medical marijuana and legalized marijuana to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act to the role of the ASAM Patient Advocacy Task Force.

The ASAM Chapters Council met Thursday, and seven chapters are meeting today and Saturday.

“ASAM is a membership-driven organization, and membership is represented through its various regional and state divisions,” said Gavin Bart, MD., PhD, FASAM Chapter Council Chair. “The Chapters Council is that body of state and regional leadership that communicates issues from the membership to the central offices of ASAM to make sure ASAM remains a membership-driven organization.”

Dr. Bart encouraged members to attend their chapter meetings because health system reform is driving so many changes in health care. In particular, many states are taking new directions with Medicaid expansion.

“The chapters forum can not only serve as a means of communicating membership issues to the central office, but it is a way states can learn from each other,” he said. “A great example of this is the Patient Advocacy Task Force and what some of the state chapters had noticed with legislation in their states regarding time and dosage restrictions related to specific treatments for opiate addiction.”

A case of sharing experience among chapters can be seen in Maine, where new legislation limited the treatment of opiate dependence to two years. Maine was first to take this step, and several other states have followed.

“Mark Publicker [MD, FASAM] was very involved in working with Maine to help combat this restriction on treatment,” Dr. Bart said. “He shared his experience and advice with other chapters so as their states began to deal with these legislative restrictions, they were able to follow his playbook. Without something like the Chapters Council we would not have this forum to exchange information.”

In 2012, two states, Washington and Colorado, legalized marijuana, and other states may follow that path, which could have significant clinical consequences for patient management.

“The ASAM state chapters need resources from the national office to help them, but we can learn from their experiences so as other state chapters deal with this, they can be prepared,” Dr. Bart said. “This is a bidirectional exchange, and it traverses all of the state chapters through the committee meetings.”

Another issue being addressed by state and regional chapters is the possibility of expanding ASAM membership to non-physicians.

“All of medicine is increasingly becoming collaborative care, perhaps even more so within addiction medicine,” Dr. Bart said. “If we are going to embrace a collaborative care model, can ASAM be an organization that is restricted to MDs and DOs only? It is a controversial topic within ASAM. The Chapters Council is the forum through which a lot of these debates about our future identity take place.

“This is a reminder that there is always space for new members. We strongly welcome more members to become more involved in chapters at the committee level or even running for office. Without their input and involvement, this organization could not exist.”