Barriers to Integrating the Continuum of Care for Opioid and Alcohol Use Disorders in Primary Care

A Qualitative Longitudinal Study

Published in: Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment [Epub October 2017]. doi: 10.1016/j.jsat.2017.09.015

Posted on RAND.org on October 13, 2017

by Erik D. Storholm, Allison J. Ober, Sarah B. Hunter, Kirsten Becker, Praise O. Iyiewuare, Chau Pham, Katherine E. Watkins

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Untreated substance use disorders remain a pervasive public health problem in the United States, especially among medically-underserved and low-income populations, with opioid and alcohol use disorders (OAUD) being of particular concern. Primary care is an underutilized resource for delivering treatment for OAUD, but little is known about the organizational capacity of community-based primary care clinics to integrate treatment for OAUD. The objective of this study was to use an organizational capacity framework to examine perceived barriers to implementing the continuum of care for OAUD in a community-based primary care organization over three time points: pre-implementation (preparation), early implementation (practice), and full implementation. Clinic administrators and medical and mental health providers from two clinics participated in interviews and focus groups. Barriers were organized by type and size, and are presented over the three time points. Although some barriers persisted, most barriers decreased over time, and respondents reported feeling more efficacious in their ability to successfully deliver OAUD treatment. Findings contribute to the needed literature on building capacity to implement OAUD treatment in primary care and suggest that while barriers may be sizable and inevitable, successful implementation is still possible.

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