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EXCLUSIVE: NAATP takes on agenda of group concerned with future of residential

March 7, 2013
by Gary A. Enos, Contributing Editor
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The past five months’ activities of a group of prominent addiction treatment CEOs around protecting the role of comprehensive residential treatment will now continue under an official committee of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP). The NAATP board of directors has voted unanimously to adopt a values statement drafted by leaders who came to be known as the “Nashville Summit Group,” and also has moved to establish an association committee that will be chaired by Cumberland Heights president and CEO Jim Moore.

In an interview this week with Addiction Professional, NAATP president and CEO Michael E. Walsh said the recent activities of the Nashville Summit Group dovetailed with NAATP’s own timing for an internal strategic planning process that it launched upon hiring Walsh to lead the association. He believes NAATP’s embrace of the Nashville group’s agenda signals association members’ aim to work together cooperatively and to sound a stronger voice on issues of importance to the treatment community, including the Nashville group’s focus on the implications of medication-assisted treatment’s growing influence.

Walsh says it is also important for the national association that encompasses around 300 of the most prominent names in the treatment provider community to embrace core values that govern their approach to treatment. Although NAATP does not license, accredit or otherwise regulate its members, “We want to bring things back to a place where it means something to say you are an NAATP member,” he says.

Nashville meetings

Back in October, Cumberland Heights hosted a two-day strategy meeting of more than a dozen private-sector treatment leaders, many of whom also are leaders in NAATP. What had galvanized the group of executives was mounting evidence of medication-assisted treatment being embraced in some circles as the sole approach to patient care, including reports of adolescent patients with opiate addiction being denied residential services and placed instead on a trial of buprenorphine with physician supervision only.

The Nashville group continued to meet monthly to devise a plan of action, and decided to take their concerns to the NAATP board. The group now has evolved into an NAATP board committee. “Within this committee are several workgroups developed with the commitment to continue to execute the work identified as being needed over the last few months in specific areas including research-outcomes, ethics, medication-assisted therapy and public policy,” Walsh says.

The Nashville meeting participants have referred to themselves as “a group of like-minded addiction treatment providers” who believe in the success of residential treatment, a level of care that some experts believe stands in peril in today’s changing healthcare environment. These are the seven points made in the group’s statement of values that has now been adopted by NAATP:

·        We value the history of significant contributions made by 12-Step abstinence-based treatment to the sobriety of over twenty million Americans in recovery.

·        We value residential treatment’s vital, necessary and essential place in the full continuum of care as a viable choice for the treatment of the disease of addiction.

·        We value a comprehensive model of care that addresses the medical, biopsychosocial and spiritual needs of individuals and families impacted by the disease of addiction.

·        We value research-driven, evidence-based treatment interventions that integrate the sciences of medicine, therapy and spirituality. (For example, pharmaceutical interventions including medications for reducing craving and withdrawal symptoms; psychosocial interventions including cognitive-behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing; spiritual interventions including 12-Step facilitated therapy and mindfulness meditation; behavioral interventions including nutrition and exercise).

·        We value abstinence from all abusable drugs as an optimal component of wellness and lifelong recovery. Depending on biopsychosocial and economic factors, there may be persons who might require medication-assisted treatment for extended periods of time and perhaps indefinitely. However, medication alone is never sufficient to maintain long-term recovery.

·        We value outcome data that assesses the efficacy of treatment interventions.

·        We value education and training that promotes understanding of a continuum of care that embraces these values.

The statement therefore advocates a comprehensive approach to treatment that integrates therapeutic, spiritual and medical interventions. In acknowledging that for some patients it will be necessary to adopt a long-term strategy of medication-assisted therapy, the NAATP board likely will go a long way toward dispelling the notion that NAATP represents an old-school mentality of 12-Step only adherence, Walsh indicates.

“Rather than being defined by others who don’t know us, we want to help define ourselves to the public, the medical community, and the politicians,” says Walsh.

Walsh says those who have worked in the Nashville group and now the NAATP committee, representing prominent organizations such as Hazelden, Caron Treatment Centers, Seabrook House, Valley Hope Association, Father Martin’s Ashley and others, have spent a great deal of time trying to reach consensus on the key points in the values statement. He says one of the questions that surfaced in the discussions centered on the reasoning behind Hazelden’s recent move to embrace maintenance treatment for opiate addiction for some patients, with Hazelden’s John Driscoll explaining to the group that this does not represent for Hazelden a drastic move away from what remains a generally abstinence-based approach to treatment.

Going forward

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