This article reports the results of semi-structured interviews with substance abuse treatment (SAT) program directors (PDs) regarding the ways SAT is being influenced by managed care (MC), plans for future SAT, and strategies for decreasing costs of care. It compares findings to an earlier survey of 50 SAT PDs.
Interviews were conducted in 20 SAT programs to gather information about treatment delivery since the advent of MC, including PD responsibilities, funding source, treatment intensity, location, duration, and methods of treatment. Open-ended responses were used to gather information about current and future plans in providing SAT, and awareness of new types of treatment being planned by organizations impacted by MC.
PDs reported changes in SAT secondary to MC such as decreased treatment length, limiting of inpatient and outpatient services, and delayed treatment secondary to benefit determination. Political and economic constraints were seen as barriers to providing adequate and effective services. SAT being subsumed by mental health was viewed as problematic along with an emerging split between alcohol abuse and drug treatment. A positive emerging treatment trend was the development of targeted programs for special need groups.
PDs revealed a variety of strategies that have promoted necessary adaptations to economic and political influences within the structure of managed behavioral care. Strategies such as varying treatment length, modality, and subspecialty care reflected necessary adaptations to diverse market needs.
Managed care continues to have a tremendous impact on the delivery of SAT services. While MC has helped to contain costs, negative outcomes are decreased availability of appropriate care and overtaxing of units that have survived MC cut backs. However, special need programs have allowed SAT programs to specialize, expand, and even flourish in today's competitive SAT market. Interviews with PDs reinforced the need for maintaining quality and diversified SAT services in today's MC environment.