Friday, February 15, 2008

Soros Funds Addiction Initiative

Urges insurance companies to close “treatment gap.”

In a move designed to jump-start a reluctant insurance industry, philanthropist George Soros is pushing an addiction initiative aimed at the estimated 20 million Americans who cannot afford treatment for substance abuse.

Through his New York-based Open Society Institute (OSI), Soros will award $10 million in grants to study “obstacles associated with addiction treatment.” Victor Capoccia, who previously ran community-based drug and alcohol treatment programs for the Boston Department of Health and Hospitals, will serve as director of OSI’s Initiative to Close the Addiction Treatment Gap. Capoccia also directed the addiction prevention effort at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Any future system of universal health care should provide coverage of addiction as a medical condition, the group believes. “We’re going to look at the role of the public sector, and ask government to pay for people who lack insurance, not as a replacement for what other insurance should be paying for,” Dr. Capoccia told Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Weekly. “We don’t want public funds subsidizing what should be an insurance responsibility for this health issue.”

Among the issues the initiative will explore are the expansion of Medicaid to cover science-based addiction treatment, an emphasis on early intervention and aftercare, and increased funding of treatment programs from a variety of sources. Backers of the Soros initiative maintain that drug addiction is a health issue that should fall within the general financing of existing health care delivery systems.

“People with a health condition ought to have that condition treated,” Capoccia told the Baltimore Sun in an article by Michael Hill. “They should not be jailed or shunned or put aside until their condition is so acute that they are a hopeless case.”

Capoccia described addiction as a chronic disease like diabetes and hypertension. “Using that chronic disease framework,” he told the Sun, “you realize that this is a condition you have to learn to manage. It is not a case of finding a cure, that it’s here today and gone tomorrow. It is a process of mitigation, of reducing the harmful effects, reducing the behaviors associated with those harmful effects.”

Capoccia pointed to Baltimore and San Francisco as communities where local governments have focused effectively on addiction treatment, and have “helped build a sense of collaboration…between health departments and law enforcement in really positive ways."

Addiction, said Capoccia, “has all these impacts, yet we decide to provide the resources so only one in 10 gets help. It’s laughable.”

Grants will be for $600,000. Specific information about the funding program is available at

Photo Credit: The Washington Note


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