A foundation looks to curb opioid deaths by improving addiction treatment

At a time when Americans are dying by the thousands from opioid and other addictions, substance abuse treatment programs can save lives.

While quality ratings are ubiquitous in healthcare – say, for nursing homes – they have been remarkably absent in substance abuse treatment. The Houston-based Arnold Ventures (previously the Laura and John Arnold Foundation) is looking to change that with a recent $1.3 million grant to Shatterproof, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to ending addiction, to launch an addiction treatment rating system. “If you Google ‘opioid addiction treatment centers,’ you’ll get tens of thousands of results but virtually zero credible information about the quality of care these facilities provide,” said Arnold director of public health Erica Brown in a press release late last year. “Patients desperately need more information to better manage their health.” This is the gap that the funding will address.

Arnold’s interest in this topic dates back at least to 2016, when it issued an RFP in a quest for ideas for “evaluating addiction treatment programs and strategies for people with opioid use disorder” as part of its Pay for Success work. The issue is a natural fit for a foundation that works to promote evidence-based policies and practices across a range of funding areas. Quietly, it’s become one of the few national funders in a niche that’s been largely neglected by philanthropy, even as the toll of the opioid epidemic has grown steadily more devastating.

Last fall, Arnold made an $800,000 grant to researchers from Brown University and Rhode Island Hospital to conduct the first randomized, controlled trial of a peer-based recovery intervention for patients at high risk of overdose. The foundation is also funding a two-year study by researchers at Boston University who are digging into unethical and fraudulent practices by treatment centers that exploit opioid addicts and bilk insurance companies. And it gave Georgetown University over $600,000 to conduct a comprehensive assessment of state laws and policies that act as barriers to evidence-based substance use disorder treatment.

The grant to Shatterproof will support its use of “healthcare rating best practices to evaluate treatment programs in a select number of states against a standard for evidence-based addiction care developed under the guidance of the National Quality Forum (NQF), a nonprofit that measures healthcare performance.”

Read the full story at Inside Philanthropy.
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