Five minutes with Charlie Neighbors | Center on Addiction

Five minutes with Charlie Neighbors

Five minutes with Charlie Neighbors


Welcome to Five Minutes With where we take a few moments to better get to know the CASAColumbia staff. Today we’d like to introduce Charlie Neighbors, Associate Director of our Health and Treatment Research and Analysis division.

What sort of research/work do you do?

Our team studies how to improve the system of care for addictions. Part of the work examines strategies to improve the effectiveness of addictions treatment, while another part of the work examines how addictions treatment can be better coordinated with medical care. Our work also examines how communities and governments benefit from more effective care.

What inspired you to start doing this research/work?

I started my work life in the business world but then decided to make a career switch to more academic pursuits. I left the corporate world and studied to get my doctorate in clinical psychology. I figured I would teach, do therapy and conduct research. The surprise was that my new mentors wanted me to apply my business knowledge to research on systems change. In some ways, I am still using my business lens to see how systems work. I was drawn to the field of addictions because of the large impact substance use has on our communities.

What are you currently working on that you’re most excited about?

We are in the midst of a very exciting time as health care reform unfolds. Not only are more people affected by addictions getting health insurance, but there are stronger incentives for coordinating care with medical providers. In a few years, we anticipate that people who use substances in ways that hurt their health will get much better care. I am excited to be participating in the changes that are happening. It’s the kind of thing that makes me jump out of bed in the morning.

If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?

Joe Califano often jokingly reminds me that he rescued me from an academic world where my research would have less real world relevance than what I do now. I am proud that the work we do at CASAColumbia is closely tied to important policy questions of immediate relevance to state governments as they try to improve care for the most affected.

If you could have dinner with anyone living or dead tonight, who would it be?

I sometimes wonder what it would be like to be at a dinner party with Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, Luis Muñoz Marín and Nelson Mandela. These were brilliant men with great compassion, high vision, yet a kind of pragmatism that effected huge societal changes. I often wonder what they would say to each other. I would wish that my children could be there to be inspired as well.


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