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New NAATP chief must earn trust

November 13, 2014
by Julie Miller, Editor in Chief
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Michael Walsh

As Michael Walsh prepares to transition out of his role as the president and CEO of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP), he has some ideas for the organization’s next leader: Earn the members’ trust and support.

“When I came in, members had questions and concerns, and I did the best job I could to alleviate those concerns,” Walsh says. “Whoever comes in next will need the support of the membership because it’s a changing time in our industry right now.”

Walsh is leaving after a two-and-a-half year tenure with NAATP.

“It was time,” he says. “I felt like I had done all I could.”

Renewed standards

Walsh took the helm in August 2012 after years of organizational turmoil—much of it related to the aftermath of the firing of past CEO Ronald Hunsicker in 2010 for funds misappropriation. In recovery himself, Walsh re-engaged the membership, the board and industry allies. Members noticed the change and began working together to advocate for parity, their role in the healthcare landscape, striking a balance between abstinence and medication-assisted treatment, and most notably, higher standards of ethics.

“The organization was in a down part of its history when I took over, and I knew that going in,” he says. “We were able to change the face of the conversation around NAATP.”

For example, he says, the code of ethics, released in February, was an initiative that was overdue. Under his leadership, a NAATP workgroup collaborated to structure the honesty and transparency expected among treatment centers, especially considering the vulnerable populations they serve.  Several guidelines in the code address the deceptive marketing practices that have been all too frequent among competing treatment centers.

“I don’t think this happens just in our field,” Walsh says. “But I expect more from our industry just based on what we do for a living.”

He says short of offering some type of accreditation, there’s only so much NAATP can do to govern organizations’ marketing practices. However, it can keep the conversation going and become a clearinghouse of information on expectations and ethical standards. He believes NAATP’s role is to provide such education.

“A lot of the internet options are new to people,” Walsh says. “If clinicians are hiring marketing people and not knowing what they’re doing or not knowing the ins and outs of internet marketing, you’re still a clinician. If your facility is doing something that’s unethical, you can’t pretend it doesn’t affect you.”

Membership increases

Walsh says he gave NAATP everything he had to give, and the passion paid off in increased membership. The organization added 159 members under Walsh.

“It’s a big job, and I’ll tell you, I’m exhausted,” he says. “I put my heart and soul into it. I have no regrets.”

While he doesn’t have anyone specific in mind to succeed him, he hopes the new leader will continue the work he started. Much of the job will call for great politicking and broad networking, he says. Walsh says he’s particularly thankful for the professionals that helped him raise the profile of NAATP. 

A search committee has been formed to identify qualified candidates to fill the position. Read the announcement of Michael Walsh's departure from NAATP here.