Substance abuse takes a toll on the entire body. Yet, many treatment centers focus solely on treating the cycle of addiction – no small task, to be sure. But the case for integrating medical care with substance abuse treatment is strong. In fact, studies show that people struggling with substance abuse have:
- 9 times greater risk for congestive heart failure
- 12 times greater risk for liver cirrhosis
- 2 times the risk of developing pneumonia.
If the American healthcare system is going to combat the scourge of addiction, it is important to consider the resulting health issues. This is the case for integrated care. In fact, clinical studies have shown that integrating primary health with substance abuse treatment has better outcomes than separate care.
So what might these models look like?
A 2013 report by The National Council identified six aspects of integrated care.
- Self-management and recovery support: An individual partners with their healthcare providers to manage their health and recovery, all the while maintaining recovery and wellness goals.
- Person-centeredness: An individual’s healthcare is self-directed and the provider works to ensure the treatment decisions respect the person’s needs while ensuring the individual receives proper education and support.
- Delivery System Design: An individual’s care is governed by a collaborative approach where individual providers have clearly defined roles.
- Clinical Decision Support: Information sharing systems help to identify relevant treatment options and other data on patients and patient populations.
- Community Resources: Providers take a collaborative approach to support an individual’s needs outside the treatment facility. This includes housing and employment.
Of course, this approach presents a bevvy of obstacles – from confidentiality concerns to whether treatment centers will expand to offer a full spectrum of care, collaborate with nearby health facilities, or will be brought into a larger primary care framework.
In their report, The National Council discusses three basic models of collaboration:
- Coordinated Care: The care is provided in separate facilities and information is shared either electronically or in person.
- Co-located Care: All care is provided in the same location and providers communicate regularly.
- Integrated Care: The providers are in the same location, and closely collaborate with on another in order to provide full-spectrum care.
This form of integration isn’t just for substance abuse treatment, but for a host of mental health needs. As the president and CEO of the National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems, Mark Covall, told Managed Care Magazine, “The integration of physical and behavioral health is based on greater understanding of the strong interrelationship between the two.”
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