A National Survey of Care for Persons with Co-Occurring Mental and Substance Use Disorders

Published in: Psychiatric Services, v. 52, no. 8, Aug. 2001, p. 1062-1068

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2000

by Katherine E. Watkins, M. Audrey Burnam, Fuan-Yue Kung, Susan M. Paddock

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OBJECTIVE: The delivery of appropriate treatment to persons who have mental and substance use disorders is of increasing concern to clinicians, administrators, and policy makers. This study sought to describe use of appropriate mental health and comprehensive substance abuse care among adults in the United States with probable co-occurring disorders. METHODS: Data from the Healthcare for Communities survey, which is based on a national household sample studied in 1997 and 1998, were used to identify individuals who had probable co-occurring mental and substance use disorders. The sociodemographic and clinical characteristics of these individuals and their use of services were recorded. Logistic regression analysis was used to identify variables associated with receipt of mental health and substance abuse treatment and with receipt of appropriate treatment. RESULTS: Estimates for the U.S. adult population based on the weighted survey data indicated that 3 percent of the population had co-occurring disorders. Seventy-two percent did not receive any specialty mental health or substance abuse treatment in the previous 12 months; only 8 percent received both specialty mental health care and specialty substance abuse treatment. Only 23 percent received appropriate mental health care, and 9 percent received supplemental substance abuse treatment. Perceived need for treatment was strongly associated with receipt of any mental health care and with receipt of appropriate care. CONCLUSIONS: Despite the availability of effective treatments, most individuals who had co-occurring mental health and substance use problems were not receiving effective treatment. Efforts to improve the care provided to persons who have co-occurring disorders should focus on strategies that increase the delivery of effective treatment.

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