CHIP recommends charitable opportunities to combat substance abuse

Anyone who has struggled with substance abuse, or has a relative, child, or friend who is struggling or has struggled with substance abuse, knows all too well how devastating addiction can be, including damaged relationships, diminished health, and even homelessness. 

A new guide by Penn’s Center for High Impact Philanthropy (CHIP) outlines ways that private philanthropy can help people suffering from addiction gain access to the life-saving care they need.

“Lifting the Burden of Addiction: Philanthropic Opportunities to Address Substance Use Disorders in the United States” offers information about how donors can help reduce the human and economic toll of substance abuse. Suggested strategies include expanding access to overdose prevention programs; supporting efforts that better connect vulnerable groups to evidence-based treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy, medication, and case management; and investing in research and innovation to improve the way society prevents and treats substance use disorders.

The guide analyzes programs like needle exchanges to combat blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV. Though some policymakers have mistakenly feared that such programs would increase drug use, the guide points out that multiple reports have found they do not. To the contrary, the guide notes that these programs have a well-documented benefit of cost-effective HIV prevention.

In addition, says Cecily Wallman-Stokes, a senior analyst at CHIP, programs such as these provide a point of connection for people who are otherwise disconnected from services and support systems, a connection that can be critical to helping people live drug-free.

“If you create a world in which there are no spaces where somebody with the worst forms of the disorder feel welcome and able to ask for help, you’ve created a world where that person has no way forward,” Wallman-Stokes says. “Meeting clients where they are allows them to keep moving toward recovery over the long term.”

The guide, available for free on the CHIP website, offers a roundup of more than 20 organizations and programs across the United States that have been vetted by the CHIP staff for results and for cost effectiveness. It also identifies promising targets for prevention and treatment research. 

The guide provides information on programs, costs, and impact for featured organizations, including the Harm Reduction Coalition, Pathways to Housing Philadelphia, and the Legal Action Center.

Substance abuse affects a wide range of people and has been in the news in recent months as communities across the country face epidemic rates of opioid addiction and related increases in HIV infections. The authors hope this report will increase and expand awareness. 

“The mainstream media and even presidential candidates are raising awareness about the problem. What we are trying to do is increase the awareness about what people can do to help,” says Katherina Rosqueta, founding executive director of CHIP and an author of the guide. “As always, our work is meant to move people from concern and good intentions to action and impact.”

CHIP substance abuse