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article imageAddiction Policy Forum CEO talks addiction prevention, telehealth Special

By Markos Papadatos     Aug 6, 2018 in Health
Jessica Hulsey Nickel, the founder, president and CEO of Addiction Policy Forum, chatted with Digital Journal about her national nonprofit organization, which raises awareness on addiction, prevention, treatment, and recovery.
Nickel noted that Addiction Policy Forum started as a result of her losing both of her parents to substance use disorder. "I got involved in this field early, first in prevention, then treatment, public policy, and criminal justice. We had made some progress but there was still so much to do and so many families hurting," she said.
She continued, "A little over three years ago I started the Addiction Policy Forum to unite the field, to represent patients and families, to advance the science — goals I think I had been secretly dreaming about since I got started in this field at just 15 years old. We move with thoughtful urgency and make sure science leads and our families and patients are truly at the table. I like to think of Addiction Policy Forum as a love letter I write to my mother each day."
As CEO of Addiction Policy Forum, her job description is quite extensive. "I do a little bit of everything - from writing our content to meeting with members of Congress to giving talks on the brain science of addiction to graphic design. I love having a creative outlet like graphic design or storyboarding a new animation after a long day. It helps promote our programs and initiatives," she explained.
Most recently, pop star Demi Lovato suffered an apparent drug overdose. When asked about what families and people with addiction can do after such experience, she said, "A relapse, or a recurrence of use, as we prefer to call it is part of the disease of addiction. Too often, we expect inpatient or outpatient treatment services to completely 'cure' someone of this disease, but it is like any other chronic disease such as cancer, heart disease or diabetes. A recurrence of use is a pivotal point to reassess recovery supports and treatment needs. In short, it's not a failure, but a check-up signal."
On her proudest moments with Addiction Policy Forum, she said, "Perhaps the biggest accomplishment is the relationships that we have developed with families and patients across the United States, and elsewhere who have been impacted by this disease. We meet people each day who are struggling with this illness, have lost someone, have found recovery, or who want to volunteer. They are the reason we do the work we do."
Digital transformation of the mental health and health service industries
On the impact on technology on mental health and health service industries, she said, "The Addiction Resource Center, which we launched earlier this year, is a comprehensive telehealth service to help individuals, families, and providers. Our field is still very behind, in utilizing technology and we need to be innovative and disruptive in the way we reach those who need help and are in crisis."
As CEO of Addiction Policy Forum, she incorporates technology into her daily routine. "We move fast, more like a start-up shop than your average nonprofit, which only works by utilizing technology to keep up with our program deployment, creative projects and connections to our volunteers and this win need," she said."
She continued, "We have moved to paperless systems, utilizing software to connect our team and volunteers throughout the country in remote offices. I use a Google business platform, a suite of Apple products to manage the busy and rapid pace of our organization. We have added robust technology systems to achieve our mission, from electronic health records for our telehealth center; data visualization software to understand treatment capacity across the country, a marketing automation platform for education and engagement, and technology to link experts with families through video chat and online meetings."
Nickel concluded, "If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use you are not alone. Addiction is a brain disease that impacts tens of millions of Americans and many more throughout the world. Treatment works, prevention works and recovery is possible. We are here as a resource."
To learn more about Addiction Policy Forum, check out their official website, and follow them on Facebook and on Instagram.
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