Less Than Half of Addicts Complete Treatment, According to Mass. Report

By Kelly Burch 01/06/17

The report found that stigma played a major role in preventing people from accessing care.

Man talking to doctor.

Only 49% of adults who check into residential treatment facilities in Massachusetts complete their treatment programs, according to a report released by the state.

The report calls for increasing access to recovery coaches as one way of improving the outcomes for people who enter treatment. “Coaches are helpful at all stages in the recovery process,” the report states, according to the Boston Globe. “Inadequate aftercare increases risk of relapse.”

According to the report, recovery coaches improve the continuity of care and can help ease transitions, such as leaving a rehab center and entering sober housing. In general, people in recovery are more prone to relapse during these times. The report noted that coaches should have ongoing training, support and supervision, but did not specify what that would look like.

The data was compiled by the Massachusetts Special Commission to Investigate and Study State Licensed Addiction Treatment Centers, an 11-member panel created earlier this year to investigate the state’s treatment industry and make recommendations for future best practices. The report was released at the end of November, but received little media attention until last week. 

In addition to calling for greater use of recovery coaches, the report found that stigma was still preventing people from accessing care, despite public service campaigns in the state aiming to raise awareness of its harmful impact. Unfortunately, stigma remains “a significant deterrent to seeking care,” the commission found.

“Stigma in emergency rooms manifests in various forms: not providing substance use disorder treatment, derogatory comments toward people with [addictions, and] not making an effort to screen insurance and connect to treatment,” the report read. To address this, the report called for increased training for all staff in emergency rooms, and the formation of substance abuse “trauma teams” to respond to overdoses and other substance-abuse related emergencies. 

Joanne Peterson, a member of the commission and founder and executive director of Learn to Cope, a non-profit addiction support organization, said that stigma can be detrimental to people who come into the emergency room seeking treatment for addiction. “If it’s somebody on medication or actively using and they’re trying to find a place to get help, it’s very, very different. Stigma is very much alive and it’s a huge barrier,” she told the Globe

In addition, the report called for healthcare professionals to share best practices more fluidly, and for access to medication-assisted treatment to be increased. 

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.