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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

NASADAD Releases Adolescent Substance Use Disorder Practice Guide

October 23, 2014 | Addictions | Comments
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The National Association of State Alcohol and Substance Abuse Directors (NASADAD) has released a new practice guide to inform states’ efforts to improve and expand treatment of substance use disorders among adolescents. The release of the adolescent substance use disorder guide comes at a critical time for teens and state substance abuse agencies, amid major health system changes – such as parity and the Affordable Care Act – that create greater opportunities for young people to receive substance use disorder services, yet require substantial additional work in states and communities to be fully realized.

Research indicates that most mental health and substance use disorders emerge during adolescence. About 1.7 million teens in the United States needed treatment for a substance use disorder in 2011, though only a small fraction received treatment at a specialty facility. Adolescents have psychological, developmental, and emotional strengths and needs that are distinct from those of the adults who comprise the majority of the SUD treatment and recovery population. The new NASADAD practice guide notes that state agencies will play a key role in the dissemination of new and improved evidenced-based treatment, continuing care, and recovery options for adolescents with substance use disorders by funding providers and their workforce, implementing quality initiatives, and licensing providers.

In crafting the new adolescent substance use disorder guidance document, NASADAD gathered information about existing State guidance for adolescent treatment and recovery services, identified essential elements of treatment and recovery systems for adolescents with SUDs, and identified potential directions for updating, modifying, or improving state policies. The guidance is divided into three broad sections:

  • Overarching principles of care
  • Service elements, including screening, assessment, and treatment and recovery services
  • Administrative considerations for States

Each section contains draft guidance language that could be used in State regulations, contracts, and guidelines.

The practice guide contains useful information that youth behavioral health providers can use as a starting point for discussions with their state, third-party payers, and other health system partners.