ASAM Praised for Addiction Efforts

David K. Mineta: "The relationship and partnership between ONDCP and ASAM is of critical importance to the field and the millions of people we are able to serve."

David K. Mineta: “The relationship and partnership between ONDCP and ASAM is of critical importance to the field and the millions of people we are able to serve.”

The American Society of Addiction Medicine’s efforts are “invaluable” in moving President Obama’s 2011 strategy of addressing substance abuse disorders, said David K. Mineta, M.S.W., Deputy Director of Demand Reduction, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). He made his remarks during Saturday’s Policy Plenary “Health Reform and Parity Implications for Addiction Medicine.”

“The relationship and partnership between ONDCP and ASAM is of critical importance to the field and the millions of people we are able to serve,” Mineta said. “Our office relies on continued coordinated effort with ASAM to ensure that doctors and other health care providers receive ongoing communication in addiction medicine.”

The Obama administration’s 2011 strategy calls for educating doctors on addiction, promoting the appropriate role of physicians in the care of patients with drug addiction, establishing addiction medicine as a specialty recognized by professional organizations, government, physicians, purchasers, and consumers of health care services and the general public, and supporting addiction research and prevention.

In terms of action toward those aims, Mineta commended addiction medicine for efforts to expand medical education in substance abuse disorders. Specifically, he drew attention to the American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABAM) for accrediting 10 training programs, the nation’s first postgraduate addiction medicine residencies for physicians, and for releasing national guidelines for addiction medicine residencies.

“Today, a shortage of health care professionals knowledgeable about addiction does not allow the health care field to efficiently identify addicts early enough to provide them with much needed services that could stem the tide of addiction,” Mineta said. “While the consequences of substance abuse (accidents, violence, and chronic illnesses) often require involvement with the health care system, sadly most health care providers are not well trained to adequately respond.”

He lamented that most health care professionals outside addiction medicine have minimal training in recognizing substance abuse in their patients. He called this “not only tragic for these patients, but also because undetected substance abuse complicates other illness and exponentially increases health care costs, affecting local economies.”

The deputy director also encouraged ASAM and its members to continue close collaboration with ONDCP.

“If we meet the opportunity that presents itself right now, we will be able to look back on this period right now as game changing,” Mineta said. “I want to thank all of you for everything you do in the field to make that happen.”

Also addressing the Policy Plenary was Mark I. Kraus, M.D., FASAM, Co-Chair of the Public Policy Committee, who commended ASAM members for the largest participation ever in ASAM Legislative Day this week. He encouraged them to continue advocacy, specifically in workforce issues.

“Mental health parity has passed, but this bill is useless unless we put teeth into it,” he said. “If we don’t have people come into the workforce, the number of patients that could be knocking on our door will be overwhelming.”

Though addiction medicine fellowships have been introduced at 10 universities, that won’t make a dent in the addiction medicine workforce. Dr. Kraus encouraged ASAM members to work with their Congressional representatives to gain their understanding about the addiction workforce need.

Immediate Past President Louis E. Baxter Sr., M.D., FASAM, concurred about the workforce shortage. “If we graduated 200 addiction physicians a year for the next 10 years, we will still not have enough addiction physicians,” he said. “The strategic plan has to do with our training of primary care physicians and allied health professionals in addiction issues, and the model for doing that is through the Federally Qualified Health Centers.”

A. Kenison Roy III, M.D., FASAM, Co-Chair of the Legislative Advocacy Committee, also encouraged continued communication with federal legislators because these efforts do ensure a warm reception of addiction medicine advocates on Capitol Hill.

He also emphasized the need to continue moving addiction medicine inside the mainstream of medicine.

“Parity legislation implies that addiction is a disease and that it should be treated as any other disease,” he said. “What this means is that treatment will be tightly managed and will be provided individually to individual patients using the many different treatment components and modalities.”

The Policy Plenary closed with fielding questions from the audience led by Petros Levounis, M.D., FASAM, Co-Chair of the Legislative Advocacy Committee.