The addiction-treatment industry is most certainly at a crossroads today. With favorable legislation and a growing recognition of addiction as a chronic disease, leaders now have an opportunity to shape the direction of the road ahead. And these are pivotal decisions, according to Marvin Ventrell, executive director of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP), who spoke at the National Conference on Addiction Disorders in Denver on Sunday.
“Appreciate the fact that we are in a place where if we don’t use our heads, we can do this wrong,” he said.
Ventrell told a group of treatment center leaders that the Affordable Care Act and parity laws have provided the beginnings of new funding streams—even if some centers might not be seeing that funding just yet. As a result, private equity has arrived on the scene, looking to acquire and roll-up providers with a streamlined business model.
Such shifts in the landscape are a call to action for leaders.
“What we know is that we can treat addiction,” Ventrell said. “That’s amazing because we didn’t used to know that. We should be very pleased that we have a sound service model, but our ability to provide it is threatened by external forces.”
He recommends that leaders remain good custodians of the clinical model and work to smooth out the extreme polarity of philosophy where it exists, namely the head-butting over the use of medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
“The notion that you’re either MAT or spiritual, that’s just nonsense,” he said. “Most of us are in between the two poles.”
Much of the new legislation aimed at the nation’s addiction crisis includes specific provisions for MAT, but Ventrell is concerned that the need for counseling in conjunction with MAT isn’t being emphasized enough in the process. Treatment must follow a bio-psycho-social-spiritual model, he said.
“How do we respond as leaders to get this right and help people?” Ventrell said. “We need moderation in MAT. We need to evolve the 12-Step thinking. The 12-Step fundamentalism is as dangerous as medicine without additional care.”
He also highlighted NAATP’s new scientific outcomes study project that began this year. Data will be collected and verified for efficacy by a third party. In time, the study results will help inform treatment programs and support the case that treatment works.