Mike Boyle: In Memoriam

May 16, 2015

The behavioral health field lost a great leader on May 7, 2015, with the sudden passing of Mike Boyle.

Mike’s nearly 40-year career at Fayette Companies (now known as The Human Service Center) in Peoria, Illinois was focused on improving the quality of care for people suffering from substance use and mental health disorders. From his start as a youth outreach worker, Mike went on to lead Fayette Companies as president and CEO. Upon his retirement, he joined the Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies at the UW-Madison as a Senior Innovation Officer. 

Under Mike’s leadership, Fayette Companies was among the nation’s first treatment agencies to test the NIATx model of process improvement, as part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Paths to Recovery project. One of Fayette Companies’ first NIATx change projects focused on increasing retention in treatment at the agency’s residential program for women. With Mike at the helm, NIATx tools and techniques became part of Fayette Companies organizational culture. Fayette Companies has contributed to the success of numerous NIATx projects as well as to the development of Addiction-CHESS. 

Mike loved to share his lessons with the field in writing, as a lead author or contributor to several scholarly articles published in peer-reviewed journals.  He wrote frequently for the NIATx E-news and the ATTC/NIATx Service Improvement Blog, and also served on the editorial board for The Bridge, the ATTC Network’s quarterly research e-zine.  Mike’s knowledge and experience appears in a range of NIATx publications, including Getting Started with Medication-Assisted Treatment, the NIATx Workbook, and The NIATx Third-Party Billing Guide, and NIATx: Process Improvement in Behavioral Health.

Mike often said that he was fortunate to work with NIATx and the Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies, but we were really fortunate to have him as one of our biggest champions. Here, some who worked closely with Mike share their thoughts on his commitment to quality care, innovation, and his lasting impact on the addiction treatment field:

“My first interaction with Mike was about 12 years ago when we were just starting our work in addiction. We were running a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation competition where addiction treatment agencies submitted applications to receive small grants to the improve quality of their services. Mike’s organization (Fayette Companies) submitted and was not chosen. But Mike decided that he was going to get in, one way or another. He learned what we were trying to do and adopted many of the principles that were being put forth, without the financial support of a small grant. Fayette was one of the most successful adopters and was (of course) selected for funding in the second round. Fayette was one of the pace setters. But the thing that impressed me about Mike was that he was not chasing the money at all. He just wanted to be the very best addiction treatment organization out there. Later we realized that this commitment to innovation and excellence was a lifelong pursuit. You name it: if it was a proven (or very promising) innovation, Mike was going to use it.

A second story indicates that “good enough” was not part of Mike's vocabulary. Whatever he did, he did with a commitment to excellence. When we were first developing our smartphone based relapse prevention system, we conducted needs assessment studies to be sure we were addressing the critical issues facing the patients and families. We called Mike and asked if he could set up a meeting where we could interview Fayette patients and families. Of course he said “of course!”. We expected to find about 10-15 people when were arrived in Peoria. Instead Mike had pulled together at least 30. There were patients and families, but also experts in child welfare, criminal justice, primary care, addiction treatment and others!  And what a powerful learning experience. Nothing but the best from Mike.  

We have many laments about his death. What a wonderful, committed person.  What a committed professional. What a loss.”  

Dave Gustafson

Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies and NIATx

“I had the honor of working with Mike on the development of several national initiatives in the substance abuse field. Mike’s enthusiasm for improving the lives of those we serve was contagious. He thrived on each and every challenge and was always eager to assist my colleagues and me at the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment when we needed his counsel and support. Mike contributed to the field, and to life, in a grand way.  I will miss his energy and positive spirit. May we all carry on his legacy and generous spirit.”

Fran Cotter

Quality Improvement Team Leader 

Division of Services Improvement

Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, 

“I don't have a single story to tell. I want to talk about what I loved most about Mike. Mike never gave up on something he thought was important. Some people might say he was like a dog with a bone. We had one project together that kept getting dropped to the bottom of the list. He would bring it up faithfully every time we talked but never by complaining or suggesting that others weren't doing their job—just as a reminder that we all thought this project was important and we needed to figure out how to get moving on it. Mike could come across as gruff or impatient to some, but I think persistence was a great strength of his. He had a vision and he worked toward it. He was willing to do whatever it took to get where he wanted to go. He got impatient when people were passive, but when you agreed with him and just hadn't figured out the how or the when, he would just keep reminding you of how important is was to move forward, give his input into how to accomplish the goal, and then do whatever he could to make sure it happened.

The other thing I loved about Mike was that he could always see how an innovation could be implemented in practice. He was only interested in providing treatment that worked and kept up on the research and figured out how to implement the things that worked in his agency. He just kept his eye on the ball and made it happen. He was happy to be a bridge between research and practice. If he had a question about something he read, he would call the author of the paper and ask his question. He developed a lot of relationships in the research world by just picking up the phone to ask a question.

 Mike set a great example for us all, and I will miss working with him.”

Kim Johnson, 

Co-Deputy Director, NIATx
Co-Director, ATTC Network Coordinating Office

“Mike Boyle was a charismatic leader who added energy and momentum to any effort he was associated with. Individuals in recovery throughout the United States and the world were lucky to have Mike on their side. He cared about people and was an amazing visionary.

Our center at the UW-Madison worked with Mike for over a decade, and he quickly became a go-to person on any forward-thinking project. Really. He is the type of person who either had implemented the new practice or had thought it through and had a very good reason to not pursue the given approach.

His latest passion was to bring ground-breaking technologies to the addiction treatment field to improve care and treatment supports. In a field dominated by teenagers and twenty-somethings—communication technology—Mike was right there on the cutting-edge. Even better, he could explain the purpose and potential of these new technologies to us technophobes. He had a great gift.

I will miss Mike’s unwavering confidence, dry wit, and endless pursuit of his passions. Mike, it was pleasure to work with you and you made a difference in my life.”

Todd Molfenter

Co-Deputy Director, NIATx

Assistant Scientist, Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies

Mike Boyle was one of the first national adopters of the NIATx quality improvement approach focused on access and retention. But, as we soon learned, Mike was often the first adopter of the best practices available to more effectively treat and support people with substance use disorders and mental health conditions. As you got to know Mike two qualities stuck out: he always had a big smile on his face, and he always had an idea or three that he wanted to tell you about! I will miss Mike's smile, and his ideas. Fortunately, he infected many with his curiosity, imagination and never-ending quest for improvement. We will all carry forward his legacy to improve access to and quality of treatment and recovery from substance use disorders."

Victor Capoccia

Rest in peace, Mike.

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