Mark Willenbring, MD, DFAPA

Mark Willenbring, MD, DFAPA

Founder, CEO Alltyr Clinic

Mark Willenbring, MD, DFAPA, is an internationally recognized addiction psychiatrist who has been pioneering new ways to treat alcohol and drug use disorders for over 30 years. Dr. Willenbring was featured in the HBO Addiction Special, has appeared on CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC national broadcasts, and has been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Houston Chronicle, and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. As Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Minnesota, his research focused on better ways to manage chronic complex conditions, where substance use, mental, and physical disorders are often combined. Within the VA Healthcare System, he was a leader in implementing research findings into clinical practice. Dr. Willenbring then moved to the National Institutes of Health, in Bethesda, MD, where he directed the Division responsible for funding research grants on alcohol treatment and recovery to Universities across the US. While there, he became aware that new knowledge and tools resulting from NIH funding of alcohol and drug treatment were not being made available to the people who needed them. The current addiction treatment system is not built on science, but on an antiquated rehab model that has not changed much since 1955. So when he left NIH to return to Minnesota, he was determined to stimulate transformative change in addiction treatment in America. Alltyr was formed in 2012 with that purpose, and the first Alltyr Clinic opened in St. Paul, MN, in 2013, to demonstrate a rehab alternative.

Dr Willenbring is also co-founder and Chief Medical Officer for Annum Health, a healthtech company that provides modern treatment for heavy drinking to employees who are in need. Annum does this by securing agreement from large employers to reach out to every covered employee. It calls this approach, rooted in public health, “universal engagement.” The approach is effective because the identity of participating employees is not revealed even though the employer agrees to cover the cost for all eligible employees.

Just like Alltyr, Annum’s approach has a solid footing in evidence-based techniques, including motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioral therapy. Annum’s treatment is individualized and unique to each person. Drinking goals and specific treatment plans are developed collaboratively with each participant and treatment is provided for up to a full year. Technology, using smartphones and tablets, make it possible to deliver quality care directly and rapidly to people in need. Research and clinical experience shows that both at-risk drinkers and people with mild to moderate AUD – the vast majority of AUD cases – respond well to relatively minimal interventions. These employees represent a prime target for large-scale strategies that leverage technology.