Amidst the Opioid Crisis: Best Practices for SMVF Resilience, Treatment, and Recovery

For a Username and/or Password, please contact your State Team Lead, 
or contact the SMVF TA Center for further details: or 518-439-7415 Option 6.


Date: February 22, 2017

Time: 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. (ET)

Compared with the general population, service members, veterans, and their families (SMVF) are at a greater risk of misusing opioids and unintentionally overdosing.  Combat-related injuries resulting in chronic pain, sleep disorders, mental health problems, and co-occurring conditions all play a role in this trend.  This increased risk requires a dedicated focus on this population and a concerted effort to implement evidence-based practices. 

SAMHSA is working with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the U.S. Department of Defense, and other interagency partners to advance strategies to combat the opioid crisis among SMVF.  This webinar will feature comprehensive evidence-based solutions, including medication-assisted treatment and recovery approaches.  This webinar will also highlight the steps the VA has taken to address one of its greatest challenges – chronic pain and overprescribing.  This webinar will not only review the nature and cause of the problem, but will also provide strategies designed to enhance statewide approaches and improve military and civilian behavioral health system responses to the opioid crisis.  

Learning Objectives

  • Explain the characteristics and risk factors among SMVF for opioid misuse and addiction, including chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other co-occurring conditions
  • Describe SAMHSA’s new and emerging national initiatives designed to help states and communities better address the opioid crisis among SMVF
  • Identify the steps the VA has taken to address the opioid crisis
  • Discover solutions for integrating military culture and recovery-oriented approaches with medication-assisted treatment and recovery
  • Implement prevention strategies to reduce opioid-related SMVF deaths


Donna Aligata, R.N.C. | Project Director, SAMHSA’s Service Members, Veterans, and their Families Technical Assistance Center, Policy Research Associates, Inc.


Kimberly A. Johnson, Ph.D. | Director, Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), SAMHSA

Karen Drexler, M.D. | National Mental Health Program Director, Substance Use Disorders, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Michael Flaherty, Ph.D. | Clinical Psychologist and Founder, Institute for Research, Education and Training in the Addictions

Target Audience

Representatives serving SMVF from state, territory, and tribal behavioral health systems, workforce development and training staff, providers, mental health and addiction peers, military family coalitions, and advocates.

Click on the following link to register prior to the event:

Please note:

  • Participants will only be able to hear the webinar through their computer via headphones or speakers
  • Participants are asked to test their system before the broadcast
  • The webinar archive will be made available to registrants after the webinar
  • Continuing education units are not available for this webinar

If you have any questions about your registration, please contact Amanda Rózsavölgyi, at (518) 439-7415 ext. 5272 or by email at

Presenter Biographies

Donna Aligata, R.N.C. | Project Director, SAMHSA’s Service Members, Veterans, and their Families Technical Assistance Center, Policy Research Associates, Inc.

Ms. Aligata is a Project Director at Policy Research Associates, Inc where she has led SAMHSA’s Service Members, Veterans, and their Families Technical Assistance Center for the past 7 years.  In this capacity, she provides technical assistance to 49 states, 4 territories, and the District of Columbia.  She has served as the moderator of 20 SAMHSA Policy Academies since 1992.  She brings technical experience in substance misuse and mental health recovery and prevention priority areas.  Ms. Aligata is nationally known for strategic planning and implementing recovery-oriented, policy-to-practice systems change.  Ms. Aligata has worked on a wide variety of cross-agency federal, state, and community behavioral health initiatives, including serving for 4 years as Project Director of the SAMHSA, Centers for Disease Control, and Health Resources and Services Administration’s HIV Cross-Training Project, and serving as Deputy Director of SAMHSA’s Prison Technical Assistance Project.  Ms. Aligata co-founded and served as the Executive Director of Connecticut Turning to Youth and Families, a nonprofit youth and family peer-support organization.  Ms. Aligata is certified as a mental health nurse practitioner.  She is a person in recovery.  Ms. Aligata is married to a Vietnam veteran and comes from a military family.

Karen Drexler, M.D. | National Mental Health Program Director, Substance Use Disorders, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Dr. Drexler is the National Mental Health Program Director of Substance Use Disorders at the U.S. VA.  She attended medical school at Duke University School of Medicine and completed her psychiatry residency at Wilford Hall U.S. Air Force Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.  Dr. Drexler served as an attending psychiatrist at the Wright Patterson U.S. Air Force Medical Center and on the faculty at Wright State School of Medicine from 1990 to 1994.  She joined the faculty at Emory University School of Medicine in 1994 as Director of the Substance Abuse Treatment Program at the Atlanta VA Medical Center, until January 2014.  She served as the first Residency Training Director for the Emory Addiction Psychiatry Residency Training Program from 2001 to 2014.  Starting in January 2014, Dr. Drexler served as the Deputy National Mental Health Program Director of Addictive Disorders in Mental Health Services (MHS) within Patient Care Services at VA Central Office (VACO) in Washington, DC.  The mission of MHS is to advance quality of care for veterans with mental illness and addictive disorders.  Her research interests include neurobiology of addiction, clinical trials, and health services research for addictive disorders.  She continues to serve as a teacher and mentor to Emory students, residents, and faculty.

Michael Flaherty, Ph.D. | Clinical Psychologist and Founder, Institute for Research, Education and Training in the Addictions

Dr. Flaherty founded the Institute for Research, Education, and Training in the Addictions (IRETA) in 1999 and served as the Principle Investigator of its SAMHSA/CSAT-funded Northeast Addictions Technology Transfer Center (ATTC) from 2001 through 2011.  He has over 35 years of experience in prevention, intervention, treatment, research, and policy development related to substance use, addiction, and recovery.  Prior to founding the Institute, Dr. Flaherty was the Vice President of the St. Francis Health System in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Director of its Institute for Psychiatry and Addiction Services.  He has authored and overseen over 20 federal and foundational grants, and more than 50 articles and books on a variety of topics relating to the need for a unified vision and scientifically and experientially aligned practice for prevention/intervention/ treatment, wellness, and recovery in the U.S.  Dr. Flaherty has been an invited guest to the White House Office of National Drug Control and Policy (ONDCP) and serves on numerous key advisory groups such as the SAMHSA-funded Annapolis Coalition on Workforce Development, the ONDCP Synergy Group for Screening and Brief Intervention in the Addictions, and the SAMHSA Recovery to Practice Initiative.  He is currently leading key projects, preparing clinical monographs, and researching the importance of understanding further the common themes of personal recovery.  Dr. Flaherty is a retired Captain (Surface Warfare) in the U.S. Naval Reserve with 27 years of service on active and reserve duty, including decorated active service in Bosnia, Desert Shield, and Desert Storm.  He is also the father of an active-duty service member.

Kimberly A. Johnson, Ph.D. | Director, Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, SAMHSA

Dr. Johnson began her tenure as Director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment in February 2016.  Previously, Dr. Johnson was the Deputy Director for Operations of Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System (CHESS)/NIATx, a research center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that focuses on systems improvement in behavioral health and the development of mobile applications for patient self-management.  Dr. Johnson was also co-director of the national coordinating office of the ATTC.

Prior to her move to Wisconsin, Dr. Johnson served for 7 years as the Director of the Office of Substance Abuse in Maine.  Previous to that, she served as Executive Director of Crossroads for Women, a women’s addiction treatment agency.  She also managed community-based intervention and prevention programs and provided counseling for individuals and families as a child and family therapist.

Dr. Johnson’s contributions to the behavioral health field have earned her numerous awards, including the Federal Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner’s Award for Child Welfare Efforts and the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors’ Recognition for Service to the field of Substance Abuse Treatment and Prevention.  Dr. Johnson is a highly-regarded thought leader, who has authored a variety of publications on topics important to the addiction and recovery field, including e-health solutions for people with alcohol problems, using mobile phone technology to provide recovery support for women offenders, and new practices to increase access to and retention in addiction treatment.  She is co-author of a book on the NIATx Model.  Dr. Johnson has a master’s degree in counselor education, an M.B.A., and a Ph.D. in population health.

Event Date: 
Wednesday, February 22, 2017 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm