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Shifting Policymakers’ Focus, Pleasing ‘Google Gods’: NCAD East Thursday Breakout Session Highlights

August 15, 2019

There is a lot of work being done in Washington to address substance use disorders, Slingshot Solutions principal Andrew Kessler told NCAD East attendees on Thursday.

“But we’re still not at the point where policymakers fully understand the disease,” he said. “And as a result, policies are reflecting that.”

Kessler said that while much of legislators’ efforts are centered on addressing the opioid epidemic, the focus needs to shift to the root cause of addiction.

“We’re herding cats,” he said. “We’re in a tough spot because we have to do two things. We have to address the most dire issue, which is overdose deaths. … At the same time—and it’s not impossible to walk two parallel tracks—we need to plan for the future.

“We do not invest enough in prevention. I don’t mean the old ‘just say no’ or talking to kids. When I say prevention, I mean treating of trauma, adverse childhood experiences. Get people help for the issues they have so that in the future, they aren’t turning to illicit or illegal substances to self-medicate. There’s a reason people turn to alcohol or drugs. More often than not, they are trying to heal themselves of something.”

Kessler also spoke out against proposed cuts to Medicaid, crediting the program as “the foundation” of the response to substance use disorders.

“So many people in the United States who receive treatment for substance use disorders rely on Medicaid. The percentage is incredibly high,” he said. “I don’t think policymakers give enough credit to Medicaid for the impact it has in substance use disorder treatment. Whenever a policy seeks to alter Medicaid, it’s going to alter the substance use disorder treatment system, probably not for the better. There needs to be a realization of how big a role Medicaid plays in substance use disorder treatment. I don’t think people who discuss this issue realize how big a player they are in this space. It’s undeniable how important Medicaid is to the treatment of this disease.”


Pleasing the ‘Google gods’

The influence of Google in addiction treatment marketing is staggering. As Dan Gemp, CEO of Dreamscape Marketing, explained Thursday, the search giant is the No. 1 source of consumer research for those seeking residential addiction treatment. Just how far ahead of the field is Google? Consider that 93% of Americans use Google for research and, specific to addiction treatment, 83% of patients conduct Google searches on a facility before coming to the provider for treatment.

Gemp strongly recommended that attendees invest their marketing dollars in building high-quality, content-rich websites, then focus on organic SEO second. Paid search results, meanwhile, offer little bang for the buck by comparison, Gemp said, noting that 83% of Google users scroll past paid results and go straight to the organic links below.

Gemp offered several tips for improving a site’s organic search ranking, including:

  • Building the site using PHP7, instead of HTML, because it loads three times as fast and website loading speed is a key factor in Google’s search algorithm
  • Using “retail keywords,” i.e., the language patients use. “Nobody buys an ‘automobile,’ ” Gemp says. “You buy a car.”
  • Make link building a part of your strategy. This can be accomplished by adding events such as open houses to local event listing directories, and creating whitepapers and slide shows that can be hosted on third-party sites.


Tips for telehealth

Telehealth is frequently cited as a useful tool for expanding access to treatment for patients in remote, underserved areas. But as Mita M. Johnson, EdD, NCC, LPC, LMFT, ACS, LMFT-S, LAC, MAC, SAP, core faculty at Walden University School of Counseling & Human Services, noted, telehealth can also bring treatment to homebound patients, those uncomfortable with visiting treatment facilities, and other special populations.

Johnson shared several areas behavioral healthcare providers should be mindful of when engaging clients through the use of telehealth technology:

  • Informed consent—having thorough conversations with clients and preparing them for the use of technology
  • Maintaining clients’ privacy and confidentiality
  • Making sure clients are good candidates for the specific technology being used
  • Clinician self-care—“making sure that you set parameters and have policies and procedures that protect you, and that you aren’t providing services when you shouldn’t be,” she said.
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