An episode of substance abuse treatment is an opportunity to link substance-abusing patients to medical care at a time when management of medical problems might stabilize recovery and long-term health. However, little is known about the ability of organizational linkage mechanisms to facilitate the delivery of medical care to this population.
The goal of this study was to e-amine whether organizational linkage mechanisms facilitate medical service utilization in drug abuse treatment programs.
This was a prospective secondary analysis of the Drug Abuse Treatment Outcome Study, a national longitudinal study of drug abuse treatment programs and their patients from 1991 to 1993. Hierarchical linear models evaluated the effect of on-site delivery, formal and informal referral, case management emphasis, and transportation on the log-transformed number of medical visits at the 1-month in-treatment patient interview.
Program directors’ surveys provided organizational information, including the linkage mechanism used to deliver medical care. Patients reported the number of medical visits during the first month of drug abuse treatment.
E-clusive on-site delivery increased medical utilization during the first month of drug abuse treatment (β estimate, 0.22; standard error [SE], 0.06;P <0.001). Transportation services also increased 1-month medical utilization (β estimate, 0.13; SE, 0.03;P <0.001).
E-clusive on-site delivery of medical services increased drug abuse treatment patients’ utilization of medical services in the first month of treatment. Transportation assistance warrants strong policy consideration as a facilitator of medical service delivery. Future research should clarify whether program-level linkage to medical services improves the patient-level outcomes of drug abuse treatment.