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Facing Addiction

December 2016

Last month, the first-ever Surgeon General’s Report dedicated to substance use disorders was released. Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health is a landmark review of the latest science, effective strategies, and recommendations for action. Its timely release is a high-level contribution to growing evidence documenting the urgent public health crisis of addiction.

Nearly 21 million people in the United States have a substance use disorder – a figure that exceeds the total number of Americans suffering from all cancers combined – yet only about 10 percent of this number are receiving treatment. The science is clear that addiction is a chronic, but treatable brain disease that requires medical intervention. Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to substance misuse, and therefore programs and policies focused on prevention and early intervention are critical investments along with treatment and recovery supports.

The current opioid epidemic has captured the attention of the public and a broad spectrum of policymakers because addiction is a bipartisan issue that unites every community. Addiction knows no bounds; its impacts are felt across geographies, across races, across incomes, and across ideologies. As we move into the new year, with a new federal administration and new local policy landscapes, one certainty remains: individuals, families, and communities across the country will continue to struggle with addiction and mental illness, and their numbers are likely to grow.

Philanthropy has an important role to play in addressing addiction. Substance misuse likely intersects and impacts most funders’ priorities. Recognizing these linkages offers an opportunity to think differently, forge new partnerships, and support community efforts that catalyze the cultural shift needed to reduce stigma and truly integrate behavioral health into all systems of care. The 1964 Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health is often viewed as a turning point in our nation’s response to the dangers of tobacco. With the addiction tipping point upon us, how will grantmakers respond to the Surgeon General’s new call to action for a public health approach to substance use?

GIH is committed to the addiction conversation. We hope you will join us on February 9 in Washington, DC for a strategic discussion with representatives from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Registration is now open for the meeting, Advancing Mental Health and Addiction Solutions, and we look forward to your participation. GIH’s Behavioral Health Funder Network is another great resource to help you learn, share strategies, and stay connected on these issues. For more information, please contact Alison Perencevich at aperencevich@gih.org.