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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Racial Disparities In Treatment

It would be nice to think when it comes to drug and alcohol treatment that everyone gets a fair shake. Perhaps that is true when it comes to private treatment facilities, but when it comes to public programs a new study has found that is not always the case. Black and Hispanic patients are less likely to complete publicly funded alcohol and drug treatment programs, compared with white patients, the study found.

The reason for the disparity is likely related to higher unemployment rates and housing instability for Black and Hispanic patients, researchers suggest.

More than a million discharged patients from substance abuse treatment programs were analyzed by researchers during the study. The findings showed that about half of all Black and Hispanic patients who entered publicly funded alcohol treatment programs were unable to complete treatment; however, when it came to white patients about 62 percent were able to finish.

Funding for integrated services and more Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act might help improve minorities’ access to treatment, researchers wrote in Health Affairs.

“Our findings show troubling racial disparities in the completion of alcohol and drug abuse programs, and they point specifically to socioeconomic barriers that make it difficult for minority groups to access and sustain treatment,” researcher Brendan Saloner, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania, said in a news release. “For example, in both alcohol and drug treatment groups, black and Hispanic patients were more likely than white patients to be homeless. But, disparities among the groups were found to be lower in residential treatment settings, indicating that access to residential treatment could be particularly valuable for these patients.”
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