The news wasn’t good when addiction treatment professionals from across the nation gathered in May 2018 for the annual National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP) Leadership Conference.
The media was full of stories about “bad actors” in the treatment field and the opioid crisis filled headlines. Even cable comedians were taking shots at the industry’s plight.
There was concern, but NAATP members also had reason to be optimistic. They were already working to improve their code of ethics and establish tougher industry standards.
NAATP released in April a foundational set of resources focused on standardizing quality assurance and core competency implementation across its member facilities.
Work is Paying Off
In early May, when 700 attendees representing 200 individual treatment centers, and 20 industry partners gathered in Washington, D.C., Executive Director Marvin Ventrell told members that their foresight and action are paying off.
“We have fixed a lot of things and are continuing to do more. There are still issues to address, but significant improvements have been made,” he said.
Ventrell credited the association’s for aiding both the treatment field and the patients it serves.
“It takes a community of trained, intelligent, values-based providers who come together to do this work to save the profession and the millions of lives. We’re looking at 25 million people in this country who suffer from substance use disorder. Statistics show only 10 percent get dedicated care. We’ve got to do this together.”
Building Public Trust
In the past year, about 70 treatment providers have been denied renewal of NAATP membership under the ramped-up ethics code, said Ventrell. Those losses have been more than covered, however, by new members attracted by the association’s actions.
“Our approach isn’t to isolate a handful of treatment providers as the best and anoint them. It’s not about a rating system. It’s about raising the floor,” said Ventrell.
“That may not sound exciting, but it is profoundly important. If we raise the floor to a standard that is proficient and below which none of us will fall, and then public can rely on it.”
Alcoholism Still Top SUD
While the opioid crisis is real and hurts many people, Ventrell noted that alcoholism is still the leading cause of death among substance use disorders, and methamphetamine use is again on the rise.
“Let’s be very clear that [substance use disorder] is a biological, psychological, social and spiritual condition,” he added.
“Treatment is about recovery, and recovery is about transformation. You know it when you see it. What we want for our patients is transformation from sick to well in every one of those facets. It’s a beautiful thing to see.”
VanDivier Completes Term as Chair
During the conference, La Hacienda Treatment Center Executive Director Art VanDivier completed his two-year term as chair of NAATP’s Board of Directors.
“From the bottom of my heart, I thank you,” Ventrell told VanDivier during the opening night awards dinner. “You’re a good man, you’re a decent man, you’re smart, you’re incredibly competent, and it has been a privilege to serve with you.”
VanDivier will continue on the board for another two years as past chairman.
His successor is John Driscoll, Senior Vice President for Recovery Services with the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.
Betty Ford Honored
Speaking of Betty Ford, the former First Lady posthumously received NAATP’s Nelson J. Bradley Career Achievement Award for her efforts in promotion of substance use disorder treatment.
“Betty Ford was an advocate, a survivor, a trailblazer. We honor and thank her for the doors she opened and the secrets she brought into the open, said Paul Bacharach, NAATP Awards Chair and CEO of Gateway Rehabilitation Center.
“Mrs. Ford shared with the nation her battle with alcoholism and addiction. She was a force in breaking down the stigma surrounding them.”
Author Susan Ford Bales accepted the award on her mother’s behalf.
Staff in Conference Leadership
La Hacienda Treatment Center, which has been a member of NAATP since 1995, was again well represented at the leadership conference.
Three staff members – Clinical Services Director Janet Blackburn, Outpatient Services Administrator Sherri Layton and Senior Utilization Review Specialist Michelle Sweet – helped lead a breakout discussion of continuing care practices.
Layton also moderated a session on public policy advocacy and helped plan and lead the first Hill Day, during which more than a 100 NAATP members visited with Senate and Congressional personnel. (More about that event will follow in another post.)
La Hacienda also sponsored an ice cream social (Guess which brand!) on the conference’s final afternoon.