Category Archives: Mental Health and Addiction

What Sticks: Learnings from Fedcap’s 11th Solution Series

Lessons Learned written on chalkboard

On Wednesday, March 30th, Fedcap held its 11th Solution Series—a forum for discussing and forging new strategies and solutions to address the top issues facing people with barriers to economic self-sufficiency.

Each time we hold a Solution Series, I am struck once again by our tagline: The Power of Possible. The “power” comes from gathering a community of business executives, representatives from government agencies and academe, policy makers, providers, and consumers of our services united in the purpose of finding innovative ways to alter the stigma—and the lives—of those of us who face barriers. The “possible” is the creation of an open forum where issues are discussed and the audience leaves enlightened and energized to continue to seek precise and realistic solutions to the tangible and intangible issues that challenge those with barriers. These events are among the many reasons why I love my work and am reminded that every day, our work is improving the lives of those we serve.

The Solution Series on March 30th was one of our best ever. Our goal was to gather a panel to discuss strategies and solutions for supporting individuals in the workplace recovering—or struggling—with substance use disorder or mental illness. Over 150 people, representing 65 businesses came together at the top of the Mutual of America building on Park Avenue in New York, and upwards of 100 attended via live-stream from all over the country. Facilitated by Chief Strategy Officer, Lorrie Lutz, the panel included Matt Sisk, Deputy Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, Brooke Wilson, the director of Resources for Living at Aetna, and Jim Salzano, the CEO of Easy Spirit (a Nine West holding).

Each speaker brought a different perspective to the issues of recovery in the workplace. Brooke Wilson spoke of “presenteeism”—the concept that there are people who show up for work every day, but they are really not present—not contributing at full capacity because they may be wrestling with addiction or mental health issues. She outlined specific things to look for as well as ways to help educate managers, leaders, and co-workers about the warning signs of presenteeism. Brooke’s work at Aetna has been to transform what was formerly known as the EAP (Employee Assistance Program) into a much more open and accessible resource called Resources for Living—with great results including a sizeable increase in people taking advantage of the myriad services offered.

Jim Salzano spoke of his obligation as a leader. He believes that as CEO, his job to serve everyone in the organization to ensure they have what they need—including access to services should they need them. He spoke about creating a culture of support—of trust and vulnerability—that will erase the shame and stigma of mental health and substance use challenges—and replace it with support, education, and access to necessary help. He spoke of the line between “ability” and “disability,” and the wobbliness of that line—suggesting that it may be too rigid to box people into either category.

Matt Sisk spoke openly about his own struggles with addiction in a high-powered post and about what it is like to now sit on the “other” side of the desk, leading a large staff of people and supporting those who need it most with education and access to services.

I am energized by what I learned on March 30th. Joe Giannetto, our Chief Operating Officer, closed the meeting by highlighting the ways the landscape is changing for mental health and addiction and that society’s perspective is undergoing a renewal and hope for the betterment of everyone. I agree with him. I believe that change occurs one conversation at time. The Solution Series is one such conversation. I welcome more conversation and more dialogue about the possibilities for continued movement away from stigma and toward support and integration.

What do you think?

SS 2016

L-R Brook Wilson, Aetna, Jim Salzano, Easy Spirit, Mark O’Donoghue, Fedcap Board Chair, Matt Sisk, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Christine McMahon, CEO Fedcap



At a town hall meeting this past August in Keene, New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton referred to opiate addiction as “the quiet epidemic.”

Just three months later, the quiet has become deafening. This past week, New Hampshire’s legislative executive council approved Governor Maggie Hassan’s call for a mid-November special session focused solely on addressing the state’s approach to opiate addiction. The New Hampshire Board of Medicine voted into action emergency rules that compel providers to adhere to practices that comply with federal guidelines for best practices for prescribing opiates, including a thorough risk assessment for addiction prevention. Chris Christie’s impassioned New Hampshire speech humanizing the face of addiction has gone viral. Patrick Kennedy is brought his message to New Hampshire at a special forum on November 10 to highlight the need for swift and urgent action to enforce the Mental Health and Addiction Parity Act so that insurers implement provisions mandated by law. Recently, NH residents named drug abuse as the second most important issue in the state behind jobs and the economy.

The noise is getting louder. The volume is turning up.

In his message at Fedcap’s Solution Series on October 28, Patrick Kennedy stressed the need to address the problem comprehensively—looking at the lifespan of addiction—from prevention to treatment to recovery to sustained recovery through employment and the support of a community of peers.

This is doable.

In New York City, Fedcap stood up an innovative service model called WeCARE, in a very short timeframe—providing comprehensive biopsychosocial assessment, health/behavioral health care, vocational training and employment. Today 50,000 people are served annually. There are models that exist that can be leveraged.   We do not need to delay.

The opiate addiction problems in New Hampshire and the rest of the country will not be solved overnight. But by rapidly leveraging existing models that have a proven record of success, aligning our strategic efforts, partnering with lawmakers, treatment centers, healthcare providers, and employers, we can meet this crisis head on.

What are your thoughts?