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Will Public Policy Mega Merger Make A Difference?
February 2009
Will Public Policy Mega Merger Make A DifferenceThere are few industries where matters of public policy are as important as in the addictions industry. Yet a nexus between the two, a place where public policy decision makers and addiction treatment firmly meet, does not appear ever to have formed nor exist in any meaningful way.

This became jaw droppingly obvious when virtually zero dollars of spending were allocated for addictions in recent vast stimulus bills thirsty for good, job creating spend ideas - of which there are plenty in the addictions arena. That the addictions space needs high powered, continuously foccused advocacy, if it wasn’t obvious before, is now utterly so.

And that’s why a merger deal made in early February has the potential to be of much import, because it brings together what are arguably our most powerful advocates. The rational behind the merger of JoinTogether, a pioneering addictions Internet information and advocacy entity that has an unmatched penetration into the nation’s addiction universe, with by far the nation’s leading and most prestigiaddictions think tank, CASA, the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, is to take advantage of the dawn of a new era in Washington.

“We see there are now major new opportunties to advance a progessive agenda on tobacco, alcohol and drug issues with the new administration,” says David Rosenbloom, the founder of Join Together who will take over day-today operations at the merged addictions advocacy powerhouse, taking the CEO title. Joe Califano, Lyndon Johnson’s senior domestic policy aide who ran HEW under Carter, has been a ubiquitous and tireless addictions player for decades and is the founder of CASA. He will remain chairman and concentrate on strategy and, hopefully, ply his democratic contacts to become a big time influence for policy change in Obama’s Washington, according to Rosenbloom.

Will Public Policy Mega Merger Make A DifferenceA non-profit entity, JoinTogether is undoubtedly the most valuable addictions Internet property, used as a resource by virtually everyone in the space. And while Rosenbloom is
aware of its commercial value -Treatment Magazine estimates its worth at $15M to $20M - it is the mission he values above all.

The merger of JoinTogether and CASA, a classic marriage of content - think tank CASA - and distribution - Join- Together - grew out of an executive search the CASA board was undertaking: “They approached me for the CEO job,” says Rosenbloom, insisting that later merger talks were not driven by financial considerations, such as cutbacks in funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (Disillusioned by its experience funding addictions efforts, RWJF essentially withdrew from addictions funding after being one of the nation’s largest private donors.) Rosenbloom, who has been running JoinTogether in partnership with Boston University, will move the operation to New York by the middle of the year. The key advocacy the merged entity will be pursuing is an aggressive dismantling of the “prison/industrial complex” in favor of treatment solutions. JW

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