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July 23, 2003

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Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Innovators Awards Go to
Researchers, a Physician, and an Artist

(Princeton, NJ, July 23, 2003) – Five Americans who are pushing the frontiers of substance abuse treatment, prevention and awareness were named recipients of the 2003 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Innovators Combating Substance Abuse award, among the most prestigious awards in the field. This year’s awardees include:

  • Michael C. Fiore, M.D., M.P.H., a physician and researcher who has led the way in increasing understanding of the addictive nature of smoking both within and without the medical community, and gotten “smoking status” listed as a vital sign on the nation’s medical charts;
  • Raymond Materson, a needlepoint artist who salvaged thread from worn socks in prison to stitch his life back together – and whose nationally exhibited work inspires contemplation in those with addictions and compassion from others;
  • A. Thomas McLellan, Ph.D., a psychologist and researcher who has improved the quality of drug treatment and developed tools for assessing the effectiveness of addiction treatment and the severity of addiction, which are now used throughout the treatment field;
  • William R. Miller, Ph.D., a psychologist and researcher who has developed techniques for substance abuse counseling that motivate clients and empathize with their condition – and have been successfully adopted throughout the world;
  • Mark W. Parrino, M.P.A., an effective advocate for safe and efficacious pharmacological treatments for people addicted to heroin and other opiates, as well as for integrating these approaches with behavioral therapies.

“These individuals epitomize true genius and leadership in tackling the problem of substance abuse, which remains our number one health issue,” said J. Michael McGinnis, M.D., Senior Vice President and Director of the Health Group of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “Their work – and their willingness to find creative ways to achieve meaningful results – has stretched the boundaries of conventional care and has had a direct impact on the treatment, prevention and awareness of this chronic disease for hundreds, thousands, or even millions. The Innovators award will recognize these remarkable individuals and enable them to pursue creative, leading-edge projects they might not otherwise be able to undertake.”

Innovators Combating Substance Abuse is a national program of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that recognizes and rewards those who have made substantial, innovative contributions of national significance in the field of substance abuse. Each award includes a grant of $300,000, which is used to conduct a project over a period of up to three years that advances the field. The program addresses problems related to alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs, through education advocacy, treatment and policy research and reform at the national, state and local levels. The Innovators program is run by a national program office at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

“These individuals have played a major role in helping to change the landscape and status quo in the area of substance abuse,” said Jack E. Henningfield, Ph.D., Director of the Innovators program. “They have translated research into practice, bridged practice and policy-making, published ground-breaking guidelines, reshaped our fundamental perspectives on substance abuse, given us an insider’s look at addiction, and brought hope and vision for the future.”

The 2003 Innovators are far-ranging in influence and diverse in talent:

Michael C. Fiore, M.D., M.P.H.
Professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin Medical School and founder and director of the University of Wisconsin Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention, Dr. Fiore has served as an agent of change in national and international efforts to reduce tobacco use and its deleterious effects. His campaign to establish smoking status as a fifth vital sign in patient charts has fostered better understanding of tobacco dependence as a chronic disease and shed light on a health problem once written off as a mere lifestyle issue. He has chaired two federal panels that developed world-renowned clinical practice guidelines for treating tobacco dependence and taken a lead role with many national panels and Surgeons General reports addressing tobacco use and treatment. He will use his award to launch a multifaceted effort aimed at spurring policy changes and enacting a multibillion-dollar national plan to reduce tobacco use.

Raymond Materson
Mr. Materson is a nationally recognized needlepoint artist. He taught himself to create meticulous miniature embroideries while serving a 15-year sentence for drug-related crimes. Embroidering helped “transport” him from the hard realities of his cellblock, even as he depicted scenes from the ravaged life of a drug addict. To create his masterpieces, some as small as a postage stamp, he salvaged the worn thread of cellmates’ socks, sometimes embroidering national flags and sports heroes for awestruck inmates, and other times reproducing two-inch square, sock-thread versions of paintings by 17th century masters. His recently published memoir, “Sins and Needles,” coauthored with his wife Melanie, serves as a platform for public discussion on addiction. His art shows the human side of addiction, bridging the gap between the science of addiction and insights of the addicted, provoking compassion for those addicted, and arguing for effective treatment and steadfast prevention. Mr. Materson is director of Pregnancy Prevention and HIV Education at the Berkshire Farm Center and Services for Youth in Canaan, New York. He will use his Innovators Award to develop, implement and evaluate the “Artist in Residence Program” for addicted adolescents at Berkshire Farm.

A. Thomas McLellan, Ph.D.
Professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and founder and director of the Treatment Research Institute in Philadelphia, Dr. McLellan is widely recognized for improving the quality of drug abuse treatment. He developed two of the most practical and widely used methods of assessing addiction severity and treatment success: the Addiction Severity Index and the Treatment Services Review. These tools were created with the view that substance abuse and addiction could not be adequately understood and addiction treatments could not be effectively delivered if there were no relevant real-world methods to gauge them. These instruments have helped to revolutionize the delivery of treatment and assisted researchers and clinicians in gaining more insight into the efficacy of treatment. His work has also promoted better understanding of the factors that lead to treatment success and fostered greater understanding of addiction as a chronic illness that can be treated in many settings, reduced its stigma, and provided means for earlier identification and prevention. He will use his award grant to conduct an exhaustive review of treatment literature in order to produce a consumers’ guide and rating scale for addiction treatments. He intends to rate the efficacy of treatments using the format published in the magazine “Consumer Reports.”

William R. Miller, Ph.D.
Professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of New Mexico, Dr. Miller has changed the way his peers think about the nature of substance abuse disorders, their treatment and means to effect change in patients. Early in his career, he raised the possibility that not all drinking problems were severe and that individuals with less severe problems might benefit from briefer interventions. He developed a behavioral self-control training program, successfully testing it with nondependent problem drinkers. His study fostered the development of briefer interventions for problem drinkers. He also re-conceptualized motivation as a state of mind that leaves a subject open to influence, and developed an intervention that emphasized assessment and personalized feedback -- the Drinker’s Check-up -- as the primary mechanism to enhance motivation to change. His approach, called motivational interviewing, was grounded in empathy and has stimulated clients to recognize the extent and severity of their problem. This approach has been widely adopted in the field. Dr. Miller will use his grant to convene a conference on innovations in substance abuse treatment, to develop a comprehensive summary of evidence-based substance abuse treatment methods, and to support the placement of interventionists in family practice clinics.

Mark W. Parrino, M.P.A.
President of the American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence, located in New York City, Mr. Parrino has been a national advocate for sound public policy and best practices in clinical care for addiction treatment involving medications such as methadone, buprenorphine, and others considered vital to recovery. In addition to treating the disease of addiction, these approaches have contributed to reduced crime and have been a major factor in reducing the spread of AIDS through needle-sharing among drug abusers. He has been a tireless advocate in educating policy-makers on the value and cost-effectiveness of methadone maintenance and other pharmacotherapies for treating addiction. One key to his success in establishing these therapies as the frontline addiction treatments has been his establishment of high standards for their use and evaluation. He has worked to build bridges between treatment providers who use and do not use such medications, and has promoted increased integration of the appropriate use of medications into behaviorally oriented treatment programs. He has also brought attention to the fact that the relative absence of treatment and recovery services in the prison system has fueled a cycle of violence and crime. Mr. Parrino will use his award grant to develop methods to increase access to treatment, including medicines that have been proven effective in treating chronic opioid dependence, among prison inmates. This project has the potential to help halt the cycle of addiction and crime in America.

Substance abuse is the nation’s number one health problem. There are more deaths, illnesses and disabilities from substance abuse than from any other preventable health condition. More than 500,000 deaths each year are linked, directly or indirectly, to alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Substance abuse also devastates family life, affects public safety, and takes a toll on the national economy. Though it impacts all segments of society, minority groups are affected disproportionately.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, based in Princeton, N.J., is the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care. It concentrates its grantmaking in four goal areas: to assure that all Americans have access to quality health care at reasonable cost; to improve the quality of care and support for people with chronic health conditions; to promote healthy communities and lifestyles; and to reduce the personal, social and economic harm caused by substance abuse - tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs.

Copyright 2004 The Johns Hopkins University. Baltimore, Maryland.
All rights reserved. Last Updated January 15, 2010

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