Open Society Institute Awards Millions to Expand Drug and Alcohol Treatment

BALTIMORE—The Open Society Institute today announced grants totaling $4.8 million to several organizations across the country that are working to improve access to high-quality treatment for drug and alcohol addiction.

Last year, roughly 90 percent of the 23.2 million Americans who needed drug and alcohol treatment did not receive it. The vast majority of these individuals lack health insurance, adequate coverage, or treatment facilities in their communities.  

Under the Closing the Addiction Treatment Gap initiative, grant recipients in seven states and Puerto Rico will work to expand health coverage and advocate for the government to compensate for the shortfalls in insurance.

"Addiction is a chronic health condition which can be treated effectively," said Victor A. Capoccia, director of the Closing the Addiction Treatment Gap initiative. "If this disease had any other name, Americans would never tolerate their family members and friends going without care."

The organizations OSI will support include advocacy groups, a state government agency, a teaching hospital, and a university research center. Each group will receive $600,000 over three years. 

"Currently, addiction treatment is funded by an awkward patchwork of state, local and federal dollars as well as private funds," said Capoccia.

The eight grants are part of OSI's $10-million initiative to expand comprehensive treatment and improve the quality of care for addiction. The initiative also seeks to mobilize public support for expanding treatment, broadening insurance coverage, and achieving greater program efficiency.

Grant recipients are:

  • Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers of New York State, an advocacy organization that works with 200 addiction treatment and prevention programs and 19 coalitions. The project will support advocacy to increase the $900 million the state spends on treatment for low-income residents. An estimated 10 percent of New Yorkers have a substance use disorder. The project also aims to shift dollars from inpatient services to community-based treatment.
  • Arkansas Department of Human Services—Division of Behavioral Health Services, a state agency that provides substance abuse treatment and prevention services statewide. Only 5 percent of Arkansas' nearly 270,000 residents who need treatment received it, according to the most recent federal survey on drug use. The project seeks to increase state appropriations for treatment and to better coordinate purchasing practices among state agencies that provide treatment services.
  • Community Advocates, a Milwaukee advocacy group serving low-income families and individuals. The project will increase treatment benefits from private health insurance and Medicaid, which currently limits benefits. The project also seeks to better coordinate how public agencies purchase treatment services. In 2004, 82,000 Milwaukee residents needed but did not get treatment.
  • The Miriam Hospital, a teaching hospital located in Providence, Rhode Island, a state with a high rate of drug dependency but a low rate of treatment—only 9 to 12 percent of those who need treatment get it. In coordination with the mayor and other key stakeholders, representing state and local government, addiction research, policy, and treatment experts and financing strategists across the state, the project advances efficiency, financing and advocacy reforms. The project plans to divert individuals who use costly hospital emergency departments for addiction-related issues to community-based care. The cost savings from Medicaid, insurance and unreimbursed care dollars, then can be used to expand addiction treatment.
  • National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence—New Jersey and The Nicholson Foundation, an advocacy organization that works to prevent and treat alcohol and drug addiction in New Jersey and a foundation that works to improve outcomes for children and families in Essex County. Only 55,000 of New Jersey's 800,000 residents who needed treatment got it in 2003. The project seeks to expand Medicaid to cover outpatient treatment and to increase access to people who need treatment and are eligible but not enrolled to receive these services.
  • New Futures, a nonprofit advocacy group that works to reduce alcohol and drug problems in New Hampshire, where only 6 percent of those who need treatment get it, leaving 96,000 individuals unable to receive publicly-funded treatment. The project will support an advocacy and communications campaign to support use of Medicaid for addiction services and to expand services for adolescents who need treatment.
  • Tarrant County Challenge, a nonprofit that works to prevent drug and alcohol addiction in Tarrant County, Texas, which includes Fort Worth. In 2005, only 43,000 of the 288,000 Texans who needed treatment received it. The project seeks to expand Texas' Medicaid plan to cover outpatient addiction treatment. The project also seeks a $30 million annual increase in state appropriations to provide treatment for Texans not covered by public or private insurance.
  • University of Puerto Rico, Center for Evaluation and Sociomedical Research, which conducts applied research informing health and social policy in Puerto Rico, where only 8 percent of those who need treatment receive it. The project seeks to obtain additional appropriations to expand treatment for those who currently do not receive it. The project also aims to ensure that inmates who began treatment in prison receive it after they are released.

The eight grantees were selected after a competitive, rigorous selection process. Each proposal was evaluated by a panel that included national experts in addiction treatment advocacy and financing. Finalists were selected for full-day site visits. A review team then evaluated the projects' strengths, financing, and advocacy strategies and recommended the final eight.

OSI encourages other foundations to invest in the initiative. The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation is supporting half of the New Futures grant. Other commitments are pending. 

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The Open Society Institute, a private operating and grantmaking foundation, works to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. To achieve its mission, OSI seeks to shape public policies that assure greater fairness in political, legal, and economic systems and safeguard fundamental rights. OSI works in over 60 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East, as well as in the United States.