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​A Pivotal Moment in History: Addressing Addiction and Mental Health

I want to encourage everyone to view the 60 Minutes segment, which aired on Sunday, Dec. 13th and featured an interview with Michael Botticelli, the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

We are in a pivotal moment in history where our united voices can change the paradigm in America about how addiction and mental health issues are addressed. Elevating the dialogue will translate into healing more families and preventing future generations from experiencing unnecessary trauma. Director Botticelli’s leadership is significant – not just that he’s talking about these issues – but how he’s talking about them.

During the segment, Director Botticelli raised a number of key points that are the cornerstone for what we practice at Caron. His passion and focus on reducing the stigma is a distinct change in approach from his predecessors. Here are important messages from his interview:

  • Shifting policy from imprisoning non-violent drug offenders to treating them
  • Treating addiction as a brain disease and not a moral failing
  • Concerns about a dramatic decrease in the perception of risk among youth around occasional marijuana use, including that 1 in 9 people will become addicted and that it’s associated with poor academic performance, exacerbating mental health conditions and linked to lower IQ
  • His belief and participation in 12-Step meetings in addition to seeking out medical solutions
  • The need to educate the medical community about addiction and the safe dispensation of prescription drugs

At Caron, we are ramping up our efforts regarding effecting policy change. I had the privilege of meeting with Director Botticelli recently and found that he was extremely open to hearing our insights as a 60-year-old not-for-profit leader in the field.

We share a common interest in defining and demonstrating successful outcomes. We also share his concern regarding opiate addiction and discussed our collaboration with other community organizations in Berks County, Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania Physician General Rachel Levine to develop an effective way to address the heroin epidemic in our community. Additionally, we discussed medication assisted treatment and Caron’s practice of using non-addictive medication in conjunction with an individualized clinical approach that holistically addresses all aspects of a patient’s life.

Addiction is now commonly discussed by candidates in the 2016 presidential campaign – even arising in this past weekend’s Democratic debate. As the campaign intensifies, we all need to keep addiction and mental health issues front and center. It’s simply unacceptable that in this day and age people are enduring the pain of addiction and mental health issues alone with families and society suffering as a result. We need to continue to talk about addiction and invest in prevention, research, and longer-term treatment. Together, we can help ensure that treatment and recovery is possible.