Breaking Down Stereotypes to Fight the Opioid Crisis
The opioid crisis continues to be one of the most pressing public health problems in the country. Last month, President Trump declared the epidemic a public health emergency.
To combat the opioid crisis, patients need better access to medication-assisted treatments, according to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. One provider working to meet that need is CleanSlate Addiction Treatment Centers, which focuses exclusively on science-based treatment options for patients with opioid and alcohol use disorders.
Founded in 2009 with two treatment centers in Massachusetts, the company has grown to include 30 treatment centers in eight states and plans to open at least ten more facilities by the end of 2017. This past October, CleanSlate had over 7,000 active patients for the month – a stat that CEO Greg Marotta hopes to double soon. They also passed the 25,000 patients treated since inception milestone.
Jarrard Inc. sat down with Marotta, who recently announced the company’s headquarters are moving near Nashville, to discuss the importance of collaboration between behavioral health providers and why part of CleanSlate’s mission is to give patients a voice.
Jarrard Inc.: It’s been a big year for CleanSlate. What goal is anchoring the company’s growth?
Greg Marotta: It’s our aspiration to be the national leader in out-patient, office-based addiction medicine. That’s where we want to be. And that goal is not necessarily tied to the total number of centers, states or even contracts – those are all proxies for patients that can access care. Instead, our goal is to have 50,000 active patients treated in our system on a monthly basis.
J: You’ve worked in other healthcare fields – what is different about addiction treatment?
GM: It’s a fast-paced, highly-charged healthcare services field unlike anything else I’ve seen. I have never been part of a healthcare services practice organization that had as much of an emotional and spiritual component to it. In the physical therapy industry, there were regulatory and reimbursement issues – there were hurdles to overcome, but never the stigma. There wasn’t a faith-based approach or a concept that the problem was moral failing rather than a disease. But that discussion is front and center in addiction medicine.
J: How does CleanSlate, which focuses on science-based treatment, fit in among so many providers with such diverse approaches to addiction management?
GM: The key is the patient. Patients choose where they start to manage their disease. They can go to a residential facility, they can go to a Twelve Step program, they can go to a methadone clinic, or they can come to a place like CleanSlate. That’s one of the strengths of our healthcare system – people can enter where they feel they’ll get the greatest benefit, but then they have alternative options if they need a new path. CleanSlate is creating access for outpatient, local, office and evidence-based addiction treatment.
J: Does this mean that the behavioral health field is more collaborative than competitive?
GM: We have to keep the patient perspective in mind. Say a patient chooses a residential program. Well, who’s there for them when they complete it? What do they need to be successful moving forward? We have to have relationships with other providers in a way that allows for that warm handoff so that patients have a safe, quality environment to come to as they continue down their path of recovery. This industry is unique in that you have to meet the patient where they are right now and where they will be over time.
J: Given that many other services have such a strong spiritual component, do you think the public is ready to accept medication-assisted treatment?
GM: That’s one of the areas where we, as CleanSlate, have an opportunity to educate communities, influencers, stakeholders, referral sources, legislators, regulators – everybody that has an avenue to touch this disease in a better way. So yeah, I think society is ready for it. We just need more of it.
I don’t believe any one firm can be all things to all people. The epidemic is big enough that everybody can be successful and have an impact on these patients that are looking for care. The teams in our centers do a terrific job of educating everyone charged with addressing the social and economic impact of addiction to the benefits of treating addiction using science and medicine.
J: You keep coming back to patients. Is patient advocacy part of your mission?
Patient engagement is absolutely critical for us. We have to give our patients a voice and create a sense of community. CleanSlate is an advocate and provides a platform around stigma, access, collaboration, reimbursement and equality for our patients.
We have to identify the gaps and weaknesses in the system – the “this is the way we’ve always done it” stereotypes – and really break those down. Now, that may be a long-term proposition and that’s fine. But I can’t think of a greater public challenge or opportunity than to be that pathway for patients that have shown such courage and strength in taking that first step and quite frankly deserve to be treated with respect and kindness and dignity and compassion about the disease that they’re trying to manage.
J: Well you could help a lot of people. 50,000 per-month, maybe.
GM: Yes. Maybe more.
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