Navdeep Kang

Building a collaborative, community-based approach to the opioid crisis, changing how addiction is treated in Ohio

The Problem:

People with substance use disorders touch the healthcare system many times before actually being able to enter treatment. One reason: healthcare’s siloed specialties let people slip through the cracks too often. A budding movement to mainstream behavioral healthcare could change that—training doctors and nurses not only to treat physical symptoms, but to address behavioral health conditions, including addiction—in the general healthcare setting, in hospitals, emergency rooms, and clinics across the community, wherever patients routinely access care. Traditional methods of change move too slowly and the scale of the opioid epidemic specifically is now too great to rely on old practices.

Despite long-standing literature indicating improved outcomes for patients when physical and mental healthcare are integrated, the United States has overwhelming failed to translate this science into practice—all against the backdrop of the worst public health crisis of our generation. So an innovative approach is needed to make an immediate, meaningful impact and turn the tide on a mortality crisis that since 2016, has killed more Americans than the entire Vietnam war.

The Approach:

As head of behavioral health operations for Cincinnati’s largest nonprofit health system for over five years, Dr. Kang led the formation of a multi-agency, treatment-on-demand network of collaborative care, helping change how people with addiction are perceived and treated. This effort brought together over a dozen once-segregated recovery centers and other local stakeholders to work in concert with hospitals, who themselves had to challenge old ways of operating to become true providers of modern, evidence-based addiction treatment services. The result: a comprehensive continuum of care in an area of medicine where one simply did not exist before. And a community where patients can access addiction treatment any day, any time, across a broad geographic region. Now, Dr. Kang has joined BrightView Health as the Chief Clinical Officer—a role focused on the development, implementation, evaluation, and research on best practices in addiction treatment. This means pushing the envelope even further to improve access to addiction treatment and outcomes, and helping lead the national conversation on quality, consistency, and standards of care.

My civic hero:

Larry Graham, M.D.


Face to Face with the Fellows: Navdeep Kang