A question we get asked often by employers, investors, and health insurers: Why does Ria focus solely on alcohol, rather than other addictions, such as opioids, methamphetamine, food, sex, or gambling? The answer is rooted in the overwhelming problem of alcohol use disorder in the United States, and our mission to address that problem with science and compassion.
An Overwhelming Need For Help With Alcohol
In the United States, over 20 million people—one in ten adults—suffer from alcohol use disorder (AUD). One in six adults binge drinks about four times a month. And of these, only about 4% seek treatment. Reasons for this are many: stigma and shame, fear of impact on livelihood, time and costs, and access to quality care.
The effects of AUD are massive. Excessive drinking costs the United States almost $179 billion every year in lost productivity, as well as 88,000 deaths. For comparison, diabetes—another major public health problem—costs the country $131 billion in lost productivity, and 77,000 deaths.
Our goal is to make the experience of treatment not only more effective, but more humane and compassionate. We want people to leave Ria not only drinking less, but thinking, “That’s the way alcohol treatment should be.”
Established Metrics Are at the Core
We use the Healthcare Effectiveness and Data Information Set (HEDIS), created by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). Focusing on health care rooted in science, the NCQA studies health plans and doctors, and their ability to provide “scientifically recommended care.” The committee identifies organizations “run in ways that make care better.”
HEDIS measures over 90 criteria, in six areas: Effectiveness of care, access and availability of care, experience of care, utilization and risk adjusted utilization, health plan descriptive information, and measures reported using electronic clinical data systems.
Using these metrics means our method offers measurable results.
We Listen to Our Members
We encourage feedback from members. When speaking with Ria’s care team, hundreds of people have said that our focused approach speaks to them more than a multi-addiction treatment program.
Yes, other addictions do have some elements in common with alcohol use disorder. And of course, some people who come to Ria have multiple addictions, or co-occurring mental health issues. Our counseling and coaching staff take all of these into consideration when designing an individual plan.
We Meet People Where They Are
Our goal is to meet people where they are, rather than requiring them to maintain abstinence. Instead of forcing people to fit into a template, we work with members individually, to meet their unique needs. We put the person first.
Also, we don’t tell them that they have to think of themselves in a certain way. Many people seeking treatment don’t consider themselves “alcoholics,” but they simply want alcohol to play a less dominant role in their lives.
Of course, no alcohol is always better than “some.” But we affirm the principle of harm reduction. If someone is drinking two bottles of wine a day, cutting down to a couple of glasses is progress.
Employers Can Sense the Difference
More and more employers are realizing the value of addressing mental health issues. With this in mind, many forward-leaning employers are adding innovative mental health services for their employees. They realize that good mental health translates into greater productivity and job satisfaction.
Employers also realize that a focused approach leads to better engagement, which in turn leads to better outcomes. Roughly 75% of our members reduce their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) after one year.
Also, multi-state employers—and health plans—appreciate a service with a nationwide footprint. This ensures consistency in all aspects of our work, from the treatment itself, to the insurance billing process, to the day when Ria members finally say, “Thank you, now I’m in control.”
As a result, employers and insurers are paying attention, and are now recommending Ria’s method for people seeking effective, affordable alcohol treatment.
For Now, We Are Dedicated to Alcohol
We believe AUD is one of the greatest challenges facing our society. By choosing to focus on alcohol, we can serve people more effectively, with higher quality care.
In the last few years, the opioid crisis in the United States has grabbed the lion’s share of headlines. Some of this is due to easy availability of pain relievers such as Oxycontin and others. But the real crisis is in plain sight. Since alcohol is legal, and can be purchased without a prescription, its wide availability means more probability for misuse.
Awhile back, a colleague suggested, slightly joking, “So ideally, Ria will eventually go out of business, yes?” Of course, we’d like to agree. But the reality is that as long as alcohol use disorder affects millions of people, the need for effective, evidence-based, and humane treatment remains a high public health priority.