Guest Blog: Rhode Island Hospital Joins Growing Group Offering Fellowships in Addiction Medicine
In March, Providence’s Rhode Island Hospital announced the launch of a fellowship program in addiction medicine, joining the ranks of 26 other fellowship programs accredited by the American Board of Addiction Medicine Foundation (ABAMF). It is the first of its kind for the state of Rhode Island.
Addiction medicine is an emerging area of medical specialty care that focuses on prevention and early intervention for risky substance use and diagnosis, treatment and management of addiction. For a state that’s relatively small in size and population, yet large in rates of substance use and fatalities related to alcohol and other drug poisonings and overdoses, this comes as a welcome and much appreciated announcement.
But Rhode Island is not alone in its need for trained addiction medicine physicians. As CASAColumbia’s research has shown, addiction is a complex disease. At least 16 percent of the population (40 million people) — more than those with heart disease, cancer or diabetes — have substance use problems. Another 80 million engage in substance use in ways that increase their chances of negative health and social consequences. Yet unlike these other diseases, very few are screened for risky use and only about 10 percent of those in need of treatment receive it. Effective prevention and treatment approaches can and should be provided within medicine and it is the mission of the ABAMF to do just that.
Addiction medicine fellowship programs currently exist in 18 states and two Canadian provinces. Plans are underway to establish 65 fellowship programs by 2020, and eventually to establish a fellowship program or department of addiction medicine in every medical school in the country. The only other addiction-related fellowship training is addiction psychiatry, which is only available to psychiatrists. In February, the American Board of Preventive Medicine began the formal process to bring addiction medicine into the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) as a sub-specialty available to diplomates of all ABMS boards.
Fellowship programs in addiction medicine train their fellows to be skilled clinicians, educators and change agents within medicine. Of special importance is the fact that addiction is in most cases a disease with origins in childhood and adolescence. The objective of ABAMF’s work is to assure that prevention, early intervention, treatment and management of risky substance use and addiction will be available at all points of entry to the health care system — from physicians’ offices to hospitals and community clinics.
These programs fill a tremendous gap in care and help foster a more integrative health care system for patients and providers alike. The decision made by Rhode Island Hospital to create an addiction medicine fellowship deserves enthusiastic support from professionals in the addiction and health care fields and should be broadly replicated.
If you are interested in building an addiction medicine fellowship program in your area, please contact:
Susan E. Foster previously served as Vice President and Director of Policy Research and Analysis at CASAColumbia.