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Employers Addressing Substance Use Disorders Save By

Offering State-of-the-Art Treatment

Patients often receive out-of-date treatment when they seek medical help for substance problems. While scientists have learned a great deal about addictions in the last two decades, the actual care for too many people with alcohol and other drug problems lags behind. A 2003 study assessed the quality of treatment for the nation's 30 leading causes of death, illness, hospitalization and doctors' visits. The results, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that the quality of alcohol treatment ranked dead last. Researchers found that just 10 percent of Americans with alcohol problems receive effective treatment that matches quality benchmarks recommended by alcohol treatment researchers and authoritative clinical practice standards.

What's more, up-to-date physicians now know more about what happens when people with serious substance problems suffer from other illnesses, such as depression, at the same time that they struggle with substance problems, but treatment for such co-occurring illnesses often goes unaddressed.

The Active Ingredients of Treatment

Ensuring Solutions has identified the 13 components of effective treatment for substance use disorders. They are:

  • Early detection, including screening and brief interventions (for nondependent problem users)
  • Comprehensive assessment and individualized treatment plan
  • Care management
  • Individually delivered, proven professional interventions
  • Contracting with patients
  • Social skills training
  • Medications
  • Specialized services for medical, psychiatric, employment or family problems
  • Continuing care
  • Strong bond with therapist or counselor
  • Longer duration (for substance dependent persons)
  • Participation in support groups
  • Strong patient motivation

National Standards

In 2004, the Health Plan Employer Data and Information Set, a widely used, standardized performance measurement tool developed by the National Committee for Quality Assurance, began asking health plans to measure how many people with alcohol and other drug problems they identify among their enrolled populations, as well as how quickly they initiate and engage them in treatment. Businesses are able to benchmark their health plans with other health plans and to use this information to negotiate quality improvements. The Center for Integrated Behavioral Health Policy recommends employers consider holding their health plans to at least these NCQA standards:

Identification of alcohol and another drug problems at least 3 percent of all covered beneficiaries
Initiation into treatment at least 66 percent of all patients identified
Engagement in treatment at least 50 percent of all patients who start treatment

Using Performance Measurement to Improve the Quality of Addiction Treatment describes the impact of performance measurement on health treatment.

Other Resources

Chronic Disease Comparison Chart

Improve Health Insurance Benefits for Substance Use Problems

Other Solutions