State legislatures and executive branch agencies are charged with the welfare of their residents and with being good stewards of public funds. While attempting to make the best decisions for their citizens, they are engaged by lobbyists and some advocates who argue for many conflicting ideas and priorities about state funding. Sorting through these conflicting claims and finding unbiased research and analysis to give them context can be difficult. The goal of the Addiction Studies Program for the States is to provide current relevant scientific findings about addiction science to state policymakers so that policy decisions and appropriations can be informed by scientific evidence delivered in a clear, non-partisan manner. This effort can be seen as a translation of scientific findings into policy, and as such, it represents another layer of expression to the mission of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to bring the power of science to substance abuse and addiction. The program brings research to policy by conducting workshops for state governments. At the workshops, state teams composed of both legislators and executive agency directors learn about addiction science from the nation's top researchers, engage in dialogues with their opposite branch through facilitated discussions, and work together to improve substance abuse service delivery in their states. In the past two years, we have conducted workshops for eight state teams. Four more states will be served in this last year of our current grant. Because changes in public policy and law have resulted from our program, in this application we ask for an additional four years of funding to continue this work. In the current financial crisis, the program's mission is even more vital. States are facing unprecedented budgetary shortfalls and have to make cuts across state budgets. The program has the demonstrated ability to present state policymakers and appropriators with research demonstrating cost savings and return on investment in substance abuse services. In fact, we have dedicated our entire 2009 workshop, titled "Saving Lives, Saving Dollars: How States Can Save Families and Save Money by Investing in Substance Abuse Treatment and Prevention," to this very subject. We propose to conduct workshops for 16 more states over the next four years. Key to conducting workshops that result in effective new laws and public policy change is the time we spend before, during, and after each workshop. We recruit state teams through governors, senate presidents, and speakers of the house who assemble their teams to send to the workshops. We work with the teams beforehand to set goals for what they hope to accomplish at the workshop, facilitate teams throughout the workshop to help them process what they are learning and develop action plans for improved policy at home, and provide follow-up facilitation after the workshop for up to six months to help teams implement their action plans. The program will continue to maintain and expand its website to further enhance the workshop, both from the perspective of reporting on workshop teams and furthering their access to current science. We will evaluate the program on site and at six months post workshop, which will enable us to continue to strengthen the program. We have put together an outstanding group of partners to create and implement our program for the states. They are Wake Forest University School of Medicine (WFUSM), National Families in Action (NFIA), the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), and the Treatment Research Institute (TRI). Each partner has a distinct role and all partners work together to plan and deliver the workshops.
The states hold the primary responsibility for allocating funds for and developing policies surrounding substance abuse services, including prevention and treatment. In order to inject sound science into the allocation process, we teach state legislators and executive branch officials the latest findings about the science of addiction (e.g., addiction is a brain disease). We also work with them directly to formulate plans for their states that reflect their new understanding and integrate that understanding with the contingencies of each individual state. This represents a translation of science into public policy.