Innovations in Behavioral Health Care Presented at Carter Center Symposium

Submitted by: 10/31/2005

Dr. David Gustafson, director of the Network for the Improvement of Addiction Treatment (NIATx), will present on connections between addiction and mental health at the 21st Annual Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy in Atlanta on November 3, 2005.

The 2005 Carter Symposium will focus on the Institute of Medicine;s new report Crossing the Quality Chasm: Improving the Quality of Health Care for Mental and Substance Use Conditions. Among its recommendations, the report states that:

  • Health care needs to recognize the connections between the mind, the brain, and the body.
  • A patient-centered approach that involves the client and supports his or her ability to make decisions regarding treatment will improve the quality of behavioral health care.
  • Successful treatment of behavioral health conditions requires clinical linkages that coordinate delivery of care throughout treatment.
  • Successful treatment of substance use and mental health conditions relies on the use of evidence-based practices and appropriate technology in behavioral health services.

Gustafson, a professor of Industrial Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, directs NIATx, a national learning collaborative committed to improving client access to and retention in addiction treatment. Launched in 2003, NIATx helps member treatment organizations make more efficient use of their capacity, and improve processes related to access and retention. NIATx uses process improvement to foster organizational changes that reduce time to assessment and treatment, reduce no-show rates, increase admissions, and increase continuation.

The network serves 39 addiction treatment agencies distributed across 25 states. On average, members who have worked on the four aims report a 51 percent reduction in wait times, a 41 percent reduction in no-shows, a 56 percent increase in admissions, and a 39 percent increase in treatment continuation.

Gustafson believes the Institute of Medicine report represents a positive trend in behavioral health care. "I think it's tremendous that the IOM report is encouraging a closer working relationship between mental health and addictions. Though there are certainly differences between mental health and addiction treatment, there is significant overlap that we need to recognize." Furthermore, he says, "I am delighted that the report recognizes the importance of process improvement and the use of technology to improve treatment."

The Network for the Improvement of Addiction Treatment (NIATx) is a national initiative supported by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Paths to Recovery program and the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment's (CSAT) Strengthening Treatment Access and Retention (STAR) program. Learn more about NIATx at

The Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a public health agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, was created in 1992. CSAT's mission is to improve the lives of individuals and families affected by alcohol and drug abuse by ensuring access to clinically sound, cost-effective addiction treatment that reduces the health and social costs to our communities and the nation. For more information, visit

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 30 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. For more information, visit

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