Raising Our Umbrella: It's Time for Our Many Associations to Unite under an Umbrella Organization

Article excerpt

In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the fourth definition of umbrella is "something which covers or embraces a broad range of elements or factors ." An umbrella organization, commonly referred to as a federation, confederation, or society, allows for diverse organizations under the umbrella to retain their individual identities; at the same time, the umbrella organization represents the diverse organizations on large issues that impact them all.

There are numerous umbrella organizations, and identifying a few may help us crystallize our understanding, and perhaps use, of this concept. The Federation of International Trade Associations fosters international trade by strengthening the role of more than 450 local, regional, and national associations throughout the United States, Mexico, and Canada. The AFL-CIO is the largest federation of unions in the United States, made up of 55 national and international unions (including Canadian), together representing more than 10 million workers.

Another widely recognized umbrella organization is the International Olympic Committee, which represents International Sports Federations (IFs), nongovernmental organizations administering one or several sports at the world level and encompassing organizations administering the sports at the national level.

The IFs' statutes, practices, and activities must conform to the Olympic Charter, but each IF maintains its independence and autonomy in the administration of its sports.

These examples suggest that the whole often is much stronger than the sum of its parts. People who share a disease and their families have formed umbrella organizations, but addiction treatment associations have lagged behind in raising their umbrella. Rather than trying to figure out why this is the case, I challenge my colleagues to seize the moment and commit energy and resources to create the "Federation of Addiction Treatment Provider Associations" or the "Society of Addiction Treatment Provider Associations" or some similar umbrella organization.

An umbrella organization would shelter us as we build comprehensive educational programs for persons delivering addiction treatment, develop complex public-policy programs and public awareness campaigns, and ensure that research on addiction and its treatment is conducted, distributed, and used. The time has come to raise our umbrella!

We have carved the field into our own special interest groups. The National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP), the American Society of Addiction Medicine, NAADAC, and the State Associations of Addiction Services, to name a few, all represent some part of providing services to individuals with the disease of addiction. …