Integration of Care in the Implementation of the Affordable Care Act: Changes in Treatment Services in a National Sample of Centers Treating Substance Use Disorders
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This study examined patterns of medicalization in substance use disorder (SUD) that are aligned with the goals of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Using a nationally representative sample of SUD treatment programs, we examined changes in several treatment domains. While observed changes were modest, they were in directions that support the thrust of the ACA. Specifically, we found an increase in the percentage of treatment referrals from other health care providers. We found an increase in the number of physicians for programs that did have a physician on staff, and an increase in counselors certified in treating alcohol and drug addiction. There was sig- nificant growth in the availability of oral and injectable naltrexone but not of other pharma- cotherapies. There was a decrease in support for the 12-step model and an increase on the emphasis of a medicalized treatment model. Finally, we found a shift away from federal block grants and other public funding, consistent with the expectations of the ACA. These data indicate that, while progress is slow, the environment of the recent past has been supportive of the goal of SUD treatment’s integration into mainstream medical care.