A new life for Oregon’s recovering addicts

From the Salem Statesman Journal, November 10, 2011

State’s study of publicly funded addiction services surprises administrator, who discovers that more people are staying clean and having fewer mental-health issues

Until recently, it was unclear what happened to Oregon’s recovering addicts after receiving publicly funded treatment.

Bridgeway Recovery Services in Salem participated in an Oregon Health Authority study that found that public investment in addiction treatment pays off in multiple ways.

Bridgeway Recovery Services in Salem participated in an Oregon Health Authority study that found that public investment in addiction treatment pays off in multiple ways.

The state knew some information about clients when they enrolled in treatment, what happened during treatment and when they were discharged. But no one could positively say whether they stayed clean.

According to a new report by the Oregon Health Authority, they apparently do.

About 90 percent of study participants reported abstinence from illicit drug use one year after treatment enrollment. That figure is 72 percent for alcohol users.

Tim Murphy, the executive director of Bridgeway Recovery Services in Salem, said the report shows that public investment in treatment pays off in multiple ways.

Bridgeway was one of 15 treatment providers throughout the state that participated in the study.

Other results showed that treatment facilitates positive outcomes outside of drug- and alcohol-related issues.

Karen Wheeler, OHA’s addiction programs administrator, said she was surprised to learn how much treatment helped with mental health issues.

The report indicated that there was a 67 percent decrease in people experiencing depression one year after treatment, compared with baseline results, and a 53 percent decrease in people experiencing anxiety.

READ – Oregon Addictions and Mental Health Division Substance Abuse Treatment Follow-Up Study – Final Report

READ – Outcomes from Oregon’s Substance Abuse Treatment 12-Month Follow-up Study

“I was a bit taken aback,” Wheeler said. “We hadn’t studied that before in any great degree.”

Participants also reported that they were less likely to get in trouble with the law 12 months post-intake. Clients with some type of employment increased by 29 percent.

Still, there’s room for improvement in addiction services.

For instance, people in treatment because of a driving under the influence conviction were one-third as likely to report sobriety at 12 months compared with the rest of the population.

Wheeler said DUI clients generally are less motivated to receive treatment.

“It’s coerced treatment, so their motivation is very different from other people,” she said. “They just see it as, ‘I got caught.'”

For others, the initial DUI arrest is a wake-up call that propels clients to do well in treatment, Wheeler said.

Other opportunities for improvement include better transportation supports to ensure that clients have access and complete treatment, and matching clients better to services according to their motivation, goals and cultural needs.

The Addictions and Mental Health Division contracted with NPC Research to conduct the study.

Treatment providers recruited study participants and conducted the baseline interviews at intake.

At the six- and 12-month marks after intake, NPC staffers followed up and interviewed the participants.