September 14, 2022

The Addiction Policy Scholars Program launched with a three-day event alongside key stakeholders to build a network of diverse leaders to impact addiction policy.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – September 14, 2022 – The C4 Recovery Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that works to increase access to quality services for social behavioral wellness with a special emphasis on underserved populations, and the O’Neill Institute for National & Global Health Law at Georgetown University Law Center welcomed the inaugural cohort of Addiction Policy Scholars to the nation’s capital this week. Supported by C4 and facilitated by the O’Neill Institute, the Addiction Policy Scholars Program seeks to empower a network of diverse leaders to address one of the nation’s most pressing challenges—addiction.

Taking place during National Recovery Month—which celebrates the more than 20 million Americans in recovery from substance use disorder—this week’s event commemorated the start of the Addiction Policy Scholars Program by connecting the cohort with key policy leaders who possess deep expertise across all areas of government—especially those relevant to addiction and recovery policies.

Notable speakers during the program, many of whom are in recovery, included Michael Botticelli, former Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) under President Obama; Regina LaBelle, Director of the Addiction and Public Policy Initiative at The O’Neill Institute and former Acting Director of ONDCP in the Biden Administration; Dr. Westley Clark, Dean’s Executive Professor of Public Health at Santa Clara and former Director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA); Deirdre Calvert, Director of the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health; and Carol McDaid, a legislative and public affairs expert.

Addiction Policy Scholars spent time on Capitol Hill and the White House, and attended meetings with leadership and staff of ONDCP and SAMHSA. Scholars met with staff from the offices of Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY), Rep. David Trone (D-MD), Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), the Senate Ways and Means Committee, former Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA), former staff of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Dr. Rahul Gupta Director, ONDCP, and Assistant Secretary Miriam Delphin-Rittmon and Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary Tom Coderre of SAMHSA. Meetings were productive and provided the group insight into the nuances of policymaking and the avenues through which change may occur.

Addiction Policy Scholars are current and emerging leaders with personal, familial, and professional experience with addiction and recovery. They are provided the networks, expertise, and mentorship needed to operationalize policies at all levels of government, whether federal appropriations or local statutes—making this a unique program that is designed to impart knowledge usually held by only the most experienced policy professionals. This sets a precedent for programs to offer granular instruction for other policy reform efforts in the future.

“Without a doubt, the Addiction Policy Scholars Program offers an entirely distinct and robust perspective on policy implementation at the local, state, and federal levels rather than just policy development,” said Rick Ohrstrom, Founder and Chairman of the Board for the C4 Recovery Foundation. “This focus on implementation gets to the heart of seeing policies become operational in the real world, which hasn’t been done anywhere else before. I’m glad we’re changing this precedent and creating a program that will lift up scholars and allow them to create real change by operationalizing policy to solve some of our nation’s most pressing issues.”

“We are so pleased to see our partnership with Georgetown come to fruition in a way that will help top-performing leaders impact policy in a very real way,” said Jack O’Donnell, CEO of the C4 Recovery Foundation. “This type of specialized, hard-hitting instruction and networking hasn’t really been pursued in this fashion before in such a concentrated and pronounced way. We are eager to see what comes of scholars’ projects in the year ahead and the change they may lead based on the understandings they developed during the Policy Academy meetings this week.”

Shelly Weizman, Project Director for the Addiction and Public Policy Initiative at The O’Neill Institute at Georgetown University and facilitator of the Addiction Policy Scholars program, applauded the new program: “As a person in long-term recovery myself, I understand the power of combining lived experience with substantive expertise to impact public policy. However, it can be a long process to develop the network and skill set needed to make real change. We launched this program because more people, families, and communities are struggling with addiction than ever before, and we don’t have time to waste. We hope to accelerate the ability of this diverse group of policy leaders to have a deep and lasting impact on reform in the addiction policy space.”

The Addiction Policy Scholars Program provides Scholars one year of support to develop and implement an original public policy reform project. Scholars are paired with a mentor and provided the networking tools to collaborate with experts from the O’Neill Institute, Georgetown University, the C4 Recovery Foundation, and members of the Recovery Policy Collaborative who span an impressive network of experts with lived experience with addiction and recovery across health, human rights, government, policy, and law—including several legislative and executive branch personnel and lawmakers at the state and federal levels.

The 2022-2023 Addiction Policy Scholars are:

  • Marianne Gibson, Chief of Staff and Chief Business Strategy Officer, Maryland Total Human Services Integrated Network (THINK), State of Maryland
  • Philomena Kebec, Bad River Economic Development Coordinator, Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa; Co-founder, Gwayakobimaadiziwin Bad River Needle Exchange
  • Lauren Kestner, Associate Director of Harm Reduction, Center for Prevention Services, Queen City Harm Reduction
  • Lauren Nocera, Senior Economic and Policy Analyst, Health Equity Institute, Rhode Island Department of Health
  • Keegan Wicks, National Advocacy and Outreach Manager, Faces & Voices of Recovery

Comprehensive biographies for this year’s Addiction Policy Scholars can be found here.

In addition to support from C4, the Addiction Policy Scholars Program is also supported by Arnold Ventures.


The C4 Recovery Foundation is a non-profit organization whose core mission is to improve access to quality and ethical treatment services for addiction, behavioral health, and social wellness. This is achieved through federal advocacy, training, and technical assistance designed to drive systemic change for underserved communities.

The O’Neill Institute, at Georgetown University Law Center, was established to create innovative solutions to the most pressing national and international health concerns, with the essential vision that the law has been, and will remain, a fundamental tool for solving critical health problems. Read more at

Media Contact

Cynthia Sun
O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law