Integrating SUD Services – Sustaining Progress in Challenging Times
The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent fight for racial justice have both highlighted and exacerbated existing gaps and inequities in our criminal justice and health care systems.
Recently, the assistant secretary for health released the results of the Substance Use and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Household Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), the most comprehensive household survey of substance use, substance use disorders (SUD), mental health and the receipt of treatment services in the U.S.
Findings indicate significant reductions across several drug classifications (opioid use, in particular) and improvements in use of medication-assisted treatment (MAT). However, the survey also indicates that despite these improvements, 19.3 million adults who met criteria for an SUD were not receiving care.
In recent weeks, the CDC released preliminary data from 2019 on the number of drug overdose deaths in the U.S. While the number of overdose deaths declined in 2017 and 2018, the preliminary findings from 2019 indicate a significant increase in the number of overdose deaths to an estimated 71,999. Opioid- and stimulant-involved overdoses are the primary drivers of this increase.
In addition to these existing challenges, the pandemic brought on increased demand for SUD services and myriad other challenges in delivering care. SUD service providers are scrambling to meet the demand for services, and many are looking for tools and innovative solutions to expand access to SUD services. Providers are asking important questions like:
- How do I serve my patients and community in a more wholistic way?
- How do I remove barriers to access?
Integrated care is a provider-level solution that helps expand access to substance use services, especially addiction treatment medications and recovery support services. Full implementation of integrated care policies and principles can provide the foundation for expanded access and improved care for people with SUDs.
The National Council for Behavioral Health has long fostered the principles of integrated care through its public education and training programs. That continues through its support of Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs), which have greatly expanded their substance use services by hiring staff, offering medications and expanding service options.
While the road to greater access to evidence-based substance use services can be long and winding, integrated care can offer a straighter path forward. If you are interested in expanding access and improving care for people with SUDs, or any other integrated care need, please contact one of our integrated health consultants.