Author Kurt Isaacson
Critical in our fight against the addiction epidemic is the effort to ensure treatment is accessible to those who need it. Individuals seeking resources often face unnecessary roadblocks and long wait times, issues that can deter them entirely. Addiction is a complicated disease, and being open to recovery is oftentimes a rare and fleeting feeling. If we as a country want to truly make progress toward eradicating the issue, treatment providers must do their part to break down these barriers and meet clients where they are with innovations such as same-day admissions, take-home medications and truly personalized care.
Having flexible intake processes and treatment plans, connecting those in recovery with a community of peers, and understanding that every recovery journey is unique are all crucial in our effort to make recovery available to all.
A Universal Standard of Care
The key to success with this approach lies in the understanding that not everyone seeking treatment for addiction needs the same level of care. “Recovery for all” doesn’t translate to “one size fits all.” Addictions develop for different reasons and with varying levels of dependency from one individual to the next. Providing everyone with the treatment they need to attain long-term recovery involves creating specialized treatment plans that address not only the individual’s substance use, but its causes as well.
This holistic approach to treatment leads to much more promising outcomes—especially when it begins from the first step: intake. Implementing a hub-and-spoke model of care where individuals can request help and begin receiving it in the very same session is key. Intake appointments that allow for same-day administration of medication lead to better outcomes. Clients can begin stabilizing right away and work with a case manager on the best course of treatment for them moving forward. There is no waiting period in which they may slip through the cracks. By establishing a treatment plan that best serves the needs of the individual at the onset of their treatment, their risk of relapse can be greatly reduced.
Current numbers show that of the 300,000 people who go through hospital detox programs each year in the United States, only 15% accepted to a detox through an emergency room continue their treatment after discharge. Of course, treatment doesn’t end with detox. Detox is effective for treating the physical symptoms of withdrawal and removing the risk of temptation while the individual begins their recovery journey, but does little to establish long-term recovery.
Better Outcomes With a Personalized Approach
Here, providing a full continuum of care doesn’t simply mean ensuring that everyone leaving detox can enter a residential care program. Not everyone will need the same level of care as they embark on their path to recovery. But everyone will need some level of continued treatment after detox. Whether this involves residential inpatient care, intensive outpatient care, medication for opioid use disorder treatment (MOUD)—either via outpatient care or take-home programs, treatment for co-occurring disorders, peer support, or sober living is to be decided by the individual and those administering their care on a very personalized basis.
It’s also important that treatment plans have a certain amount of flexibility. Monitoring how individuals are responding to their treatment and adjusting accordingly could make a profound difference in their recovery. Not everyone will respond to the same kind of treatment, so it’s important to emphasize the areas they are responding positively to.
The appropriate level of care for a client should depend on the severity and span of their addiction, medical, and mental health history, effective or ineffective treatment paths taken in the past, transportation access, work and family life, and any number of other concerns that could be contributing to their substance use and ability to access resources.
When traditional treatment ends, continued engagement in the recovery community is essential for successful reintegration to everyday life and long-term recovery. As a first step, connecting with individuals on their living situation is critical. Ensuring your treatment center has strong community partnerships with reputable sober housing helps alleviate unnecessary stressors for clients, and ensures they get back on their feet in a safe and supportive environment.
Next steps also often involve ensuring clients have access to a message of recovery from sources they trust and identify with. A counselor or clinician is integral to a care team, but an individual may also need to hear the testimony of someone whose experiences mirror their own for them to find hope in their recovery. Peer recovery centers and post-treatment programs are an excellent resource for continued engagement in recovery. By providing support in addiction treatment and recovery as well as other areas such as education, assistance in seeking housing and employment, and organizing social gatherings, peer recovery centers are valuable not only in terms of long-term recovery but also in quality of life.
The Vital Need for Recovery Resources
The opioid and addiction epidemic continues to ravage the United States, especially with the growing threat of fentanyl. Overdose deaths rose by 28.5% from 2020-2021, an almost 30% increase from the same period prior. With the number of people in need of help, now is a more important time than ever before to establish effective treatment plans for those struggling with substance use disorder. The more accessible we can make recovery, the more lives we can help save.
Kurt Isaacson is president and CEO of Spectrum Health Systems.
Kopstein A, White KD. Detoxification and substance abuse treatment: a treatment improvement protocol. SAMHSA, US Department of Health and Human Services. 2015.
Drug overdose deaths in the u.s. top 100,000 annually. News release. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. November 17, 2021. Accessed December 6, 2022.