Alexa Eggleston, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation

TITLE: Senior Program Officer, Domestic Programs

FUNDING AREA: Substance abuse

CONTACT: 818-851-3700

IP TAKE: Eggleston has a long history of directing resources toward substance abuse reduction. At the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, she oversees the country's largest substance abuse-specific grants program, which focuses entirely on early intervention and treatment programs for youth ages 15 to 22.

PROFILE: Substance abuse is a common problem in the United States, according to the federal government. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that some 21.6 million Americans (or about 8.7 percent of the population) have a severe enough drug or alcohol habit to require medical treatment. But most people with substance abuse issues do not get the services they need. 

As the lead program officer on substance abuse at the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Alexa Eggleston sees the inadequacy of services for people affected by drug addiction and is working to change it. Eggleston is a public health and substance abuse superstar. She came to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation after directing substance abuse programs at the Council of State Governments' Justice Center, directing public policy at the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, directing national policy at the Legal Action Center, and directing programs at Sarah House in Washington, D.C.

With more than $2 billion in assets, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation is huge, and it invests in a lot of things, all with the intention of helping the vulnerable and disenfranchised. Among the fFoundation's priority program areas: multiple sclerosis, children affected by HIV/AIDS, water security in the developing world, foster youth, homelessness, blindness, disaster relief, various Catholic causes, hospitality education, and, of course, substance abuse. In fact, the foundation reports that with about $10 million in substance abuse-specific grants annually, it is the single largest private entity funding substance abuse reduction programs in the United States.

In its substance abuse strategy paper, Hilton notes that its spending in the area pales in comparison to what the federal government spends fighting drug addiction. But, the foundation points out, the federal government's priorities are different from the foundation's priorities. The government prioritizes law enforcement and the consequences of addiction. The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, on the other hand, focuses almost exclusively on prevention and early intervention.

More specifically, the foundation believes it can leverage its resources most effectively by first supporting programs that help young people (15 to 22 years of age), and second, encouraging wide adoption of the Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) approach to addiction. The SBIRT intervention model essentially encourages medical practitioners to communicate with patients about their substance habits, and either praise them for healthy behavior or recommend a range of treatment options, depending on the severity of the substance abuse problems. Such treatments could include a few days' worth of group therapy or seminars, for example; the hope is to catch and address unhealthy behavior before, say, a three-month stint in rehab becomes necessary. The important thing about SBIRT is that it encourages people to consider substance usage as part of their overall health care, thereby heading off potential drug problems before they become so severe that they are difficult and expensive to fix.

Under Eggleston's direction, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation is all-in with the SBIRT program. For the foreseeable future, SBIRT work is all the foundation plans to fund. The five-year goals are to train some 30,000 physicians in SBIRT services, ensure that at least 30 percent of youth ages 15 to 22 have access to SBIRT services, and to generally spread the word about SBIRT's effectiveness. So if you're involved with SBIRT or want to be involved with SBIRT, contacting the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation for support might make sense. Otherwise, the foundation is not currently accepting any unsolicited grant proposals in areas relating to substance abuse. More details on the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation's grants programs are available here.