We’ve assembled some of the most experienced, highly credentialed addiction experts in America to tackle one of the biggest problems fueling our country’s current substance use epidemic: lack of access to quality, evidence-based treatment.

The mission is simple: To fundamentally improve substance use disorder treatment in the United States, in terms of both quality and patient outcomes.

Why is this mission so urgently important?

21 million Americans have a substance use disorder. 140,000 Americans died in 2014.
Opioid-related overdoses have increased five times in the last 15 years

In fact, drug overdoses now exceed car accidents as the number one cause of accidental death.

The cost to our society in lost productivity, healthcare costs, and criminal justice exceeds $400 billion per year. And beyond this cost, a recent study showed that when a person has a substance use disorder, the odds that this person will develop further chronic and expensive medical illnesses (like arthritis, chronic pain, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, and asthma) are often doubled.1

Even though our country’s substance use crisis has reached epidemic proportions, Americans with these disorders are most often unable to access evidence-based treatment.

Well-supported scientific evidence shows that substance use disorders can be effectively treated, with recurrence rates no higher than those for other chronic illnesses such as diabetes, asthma, and hypertension.

However, treatment is often delivered without the use of evidence-based quality measures. For example, the evidence shows that both medications and behavioral therapies can be effective in treating substance use disorders. But both are under-used.

This task force will move beyond reports and committees—and focus on getting things done.

There are numerous reports that provide evidence, outline what treatment and recovery services should include, and make recommendations on how to improve the quality of treatment. This task force is different. It has been formed to ensure implementation of the most up-to-date research findings, boosting the quality and quantity of treatment—which, ultimately, will lead to more successful patient outcomes. We’re taking a business approach to this broad public crisis, guided by the foundation that “what does not get measured often does not get done.”

The approach

First, we’ll focus on implementing the treatment recommendations outlined by the U.S. Surgeon General in his landmark 2016 report.

Second, we’ll use methods outlined by a 2006 report from the Institute of Medicine. This report identified a need for a forum uniting government regulators, accrediting organizations, consumer representatives, providers, and purchasers. This group, the report says, should develop a common, continually improving set of quality measures, specifically for mental health and substance use disorders. The measures should be well-reported, frequently re-evaluated, and presented to organizations as well as to consumers in a way that’s easy to understand.

The implementation

Our group is rooted in the private sector, so we’re taking a business approach to the treatment problem by breaking it down in four manageable ways:

  1. Tying the use of evidence-based quality measures and/or successful patient outcomes to state licensing of providers
  2. Incentivizing providers to prioritize evidence-based quality measures, and/or successful patient outcomes
  3. Increasing consumer education to boost demand for evidence-based treatment quality measures
  4. Improving provider education on these quality measures, which will in turn improve provider satisfaction as well as patient outcomes

The Task Force will first focus on purchasers (employers and states), incentivizing providers to employ evidenced-based quality measures and/or patient outcomes.

In 2014, an estimated 70% of substance use disorder treatment was paid for by three main sources: state and local funds, Medicaid, and private insurance. Therefore, the Steering Committee has concluded that the Task Force’s most effective approach would be to focus on these top segments of payers.

A provider rating system will be one tool our Task Force will develop. This system will be based upon agreed-upon measures related to provider quality and patient outcome. Once complete, this rating will be published to be used by consumers, credentialing and licensing agencies, payers and providers.

Our Task Force of experts and industry leaders is uniquely qualified to develop real, actionable solutions to our country’s deadly lack of addiction treatment.

They have not only a thorough understanding of what can be done, but also the influence to implement agreed-upon action items. 

The Task Force aims to have the standards ready by October 1, 2017. We will then plan to meet with purchasers throughout the Fall to gain their input, clarify the standards created, and highlight the incentives offered by reimbursing the approved of treatment.

Current Steering Committee

Michael Botticelli, former Director of Office of National Drug Control Strategy

Jay Butler, President, ASTHO Board of Directors and Director of Public Health, Alaska Department of Health and Social Services

David Calabrese, SVP and Chief Pharmacy Officer, OptumRX

Chris Hocevar, MBA, President of both Cigna Healthcare’s Select and Pharmacy businesses

Charles Ingoglia, MSW, Senior Vice President, Public Policy and Practice Improvement at the National Council of Behavioral Health

Thomas McLellan*, PhD, founder and chairman of the Treatment Research Institute, and served as the Deputy Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President Obama

Gary Mendell*, MBA, founder and CEO of Shatterproof, a national non-profit dedicated to reducing the devastation associated with addiction

Penny S. Mills, MBA, Executive Vice President / CEO, American Society of Addiction Medicine

John O’Brien, Senior Consultant at Technical Assistance Collaborative, Inc., former senior advisor for healthcare financing at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Daniel Polsky, PhD, Executive Director of the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, the leading university institute dedicated to improving health and health care through data-driven, policy-focused research, distributing $100 million a year in research grants among 240 Senior Fellows

Martin H. Rosenzweig, MD, Senior Medical Director, Optum Behavioral Health

*Steering Committee co-chairs




1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of the Surgeon General, Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health. Washington, DC: HHS, November 2016.