Something else I learned from the political types: the key to getting things done in government is a willingness to share the credit. Not the sort of credit you get from your bank– but positive recognition that can be turned into an advantage come election time. In politics, that can be as valuable as cash.

It’s important that it be shared with the ‘right’ people.

As one longtime Capitol Hill figure told me, “you can get anything accomplished as long as you’re willing to share the credit– especially with those who don’t deserve it.” That’s an alien notion to the average citizen. We expect proposals to succeed on their own merits.

Silly us.

Ever notice how many people show up when legislation is signed, just for a spot in the group photo? Doesn’t mean they all played a key role. Sometimes all they did was vote the right way. Still, the photo goes up on their website. That’s for future campaigns.

Because most elected officials know so little about addictions, and are only minimally invested in the issue, support for treatment is often based on a hunch that somehow, some way, it could eventually make them look good to the voters. If for some reason that doesn’t happen, they can be quick to jump ship. It may sound cynical, but it’s also the way things work.

Sharing credit for success isn’t a problem for most of us in this field. We’re not running for office. Maybe we don’t even want the credit. It’s enough to know we did a good thing for those who still suffer.

That willingness to share, combined with a message that’s clear, simple, and direct, can sometimes move mountains. The technical stuff is still there in reserve if we need it. But it’s not the key to success.

A comment by one experienced lobbyist, on hearing that the newly appointed head of the state health department knew little or nothing about his field of interest: “If we do our job, he won’t need to.”