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A Decade of Data Tracked the Quality of Addiction Treatment Centers Over Time and Across States Using Federal Government’s ‘Signs’ of Higher Quality

States vary greatly in the percentage of facilities meeting the signs of higher quality treatment

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Researchers at RTI International, a nonprofit research institute, released findings earlier this month, analyzing the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (N-SSATS) over a 10-year span, from 2007-2017, to track trends in the quality of addiction treatment. Although there were improvements over the time span, in 2017 half or fewer facilities offered medications for opioid use disorder; mental health assessments; testing for hepatitis C, HIV, and sexually transmitted diseases; self-help groups; employment assistance; and transportation assistance.

“The Federal government has encouraged individuals to look for addiction treatment programs with certain characteristics that signal higher quality of care – our goal was to determine what percentage of specialty addiction treatment facilities have those attributes, and how they vary over time and across states,” said Tami Mark, PhD, Senior Director of Behavioral Health Financing and Quality at RTI. “While we found quality was better in 2017 than in 2007, there was still a lot of room for improvement. For example, the percentage of facilities offering medications to treat opioid use disorder increased from 26% to 40% over ten years.”

The N-SSATS survey collects information on more than 90% addiction treatment facilities in the United States. The survey was used to identify services described by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as indicating higher quality. These signs of higher quality include:

  • Treatment is readily available when needed
  • Use of evidenced-based behavioral health therapies
  • Availability of medications to treat addiction
  • Ability to treat not just substance use, but also mental and physical health needs
  • Program personalizes the treatment plan for each patient
  • Patients stay in treatment long enough and receive continuous monitoring with adjustments to the treatment plan as needed
  • Availability of recovery support services
  • Accreditation

The study also revealed significant variation across the state in the percent of addiction programs meeting the signs of higher quality treatment. For example, in Arkansas less than 20% of addiction facilities offer medications for opioid addiction, while in Rhode Island more than 80% do. The percentage of facilities in a state that offer a comprehensive mental health assessment at intake ranges from 20% to 74%.  The percentage that offer peer support ranges from 34% in the lowest state to 78% in the highest state.

“The fact that in some states a large portion of facilities are able to meet high quality standards – such as offering medications to treat opioid use disorders and providing comprehensive mental health assessments - demonstrates that these standards are achievable.” said Mark “Treatment programs need the funding, training, and expectation that they meet these standards.”

To read the full study, click here.