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Connecting Care for Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health Conditions

Not enough people are getting treatment for co-occurring Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health conditions.

About half of individuals with Substance Use Disorder have a co-occurring mental health condition; this statistic is likely even higher (around 60%) among adolescents.  A variety of factors influence this: 1) Common risk factors contribute to the presence of each disorder, 2) SUD can contribute to the development of a mental health condition, and 3) A mental health condition may drive an individual to self-medicate with substance use.

Despite the prevalence of co-occurring conditions, only one in 13 people with both SUD and a mental health condition will receive treatment for both, and over 50% of individuals with both conditions get treatment for neither.

Recent studies call for the further integration of SUD with behavioral health protocols, stating that “There is no ‘wrong door’ by which people with CODs [co-occurring disorders] arrive at treatment.”  Given a fragmented healthcare system, what strategies can be implemented to help more individuals get – and benefit from – treatment?

  • Make integrating primary physical care and mental health care the rule, not the exception. According to a recent report from the Bipartisan Policy Center, barriers to further integration include the dearth of primary care providers, as well as the lack of “training, financial resources, guidance, and staff to deliver integrated care.”  We must continue to equip our physical health providers with the tools they need to identify both mental health concerns and substance use.
  • Support early intervention for both SUD and mental health conditions. Early detection can prevent both mental health issues and substance use from escalating.  As part of National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently announced initiatives aimed at advancing behavioral health for children, youth, and their families, including Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resiliency in Education) with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
  • Make it easier for SUD providers to refer to mental health providers, and vice-versa. Many psychiatric programs do not provide training on identifying co-occurring disorders, and many residents do not feel comfortable discussing SUD with their patients. In addition, many public programs concentrate on either SUD or mental health, disregarding the significant overlap between the two.
  • Connect measurement across SUD and mental health to develop evidence-based programs. “While quality measures independently exist related to opioid use, misuse, and behavioral health, there is a dearth of quality measures related to the intersection between substance use and behavioral health conditions,” according to the conclusion of a committee from the National Quality Form (NQF).

CHESS Health is uniquely positioned to help the public sector, payers, and healthcare providers combat the SUD crisis by connecting care across the continuum to achieve higher abstinence rates, reducing the risk of relapse, and lowering the total cost of care.  As the leading provider of technology supporting the addiction management and recovery lifecycle, we offer evidence-based programs that offer meaningful connections on the life-long journey of recovery.