At a psychiatric hospital in Michigan, Dr. Kara Poland’s patients were given a piece of paper to find aftercare. The hospital had entered local zip codes on a website – run by the country’s leading agency for substance use and mental health – and printed the resulting list of providers to call patients.

But her patients who tried to use it often hit a wall, Poland said. They would call a number only to find that it had been interrupted, or they would learn that a facility was not accepting new patients, or that the clinician had retired or moved.

“It’s scary because if you go to use the site, it has invalid information.” said Poland, an addictive doctor who is now an assistant professor of women’s health at Michigan State University. “People give up if they can’t find a cure. And we risk losing our lives. “

The website, FindTreatment.govit was launched by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration in 2019, to help hundreds of thousands of Americans affected by addiction answer an important question: Where can I get treatment? It is a directory of more than 13,000 state-licensed hospitals, including information on what types of services are offered, which insurance plans are accepted and at what age they are served.

Clinicians, researchers, and patient advocates hailed the repository as a critical first step in overcoming the fragmented landscape to treat addiction and centralize patient information. Most consider it a safer alternative to Google search for “addiction treatment near me” and detection of potentially predatory traders.

However, the same supporters say that FindTreatment.gov and the other of SAMHSA treatment locators have critical flaws – inaccurate and obsolete information, lack of filtering options and little guidance on how to identify high-quality treatments – which have long been a must.

“It is treated as a gold standard tool, but it is not,” Poland said.

S overdose deaths reach record levels“We need FindTreatment.gov to be better,” he said Jonathan Stoltmandirector of the Michigan Opioid Policy Institute.

FindTreatment.gov is the first link to appear in a Google search for rehabilitation, he said. According to SAMHSA, a branch of the US Department of Health and Human Services, it receives nearly 300,000 page views per month. This is the tool that many state and local helplines use when trying to connect someone to treatment.

“It’s crucial that this is done correctly,” Stoltman said.

SAMHSA spokesman Christopher Garrett said in a statement that the agency “seeks to maintain [tools] “If SAMHSA is informed of outdated information – such as an incorrect address, telephone number or type of service offered -” we are acting on this information, “he wrote. Such updates are made weekly.

In addition, SAMHSA surveys the facilities annually, using the answers to update FindTreatment.gov, Garrett writes.

Bradley SteinRand, director of the Center for Opioid Policy, said improving the treatment locator would be helpful, but some of the criticism reflected more complex key issues, such as shortage of suppliers – which SAMHSA alone cannot decide.

“There will be a limit to its value if there is a waiting list everywhere,” Stein said.

But others say eliminating the shortcomings is essential to the nation’s response to addiction.

“It’s time to stop analyzing the opioid epidemic,” he said Dr. Babak Tofigi, an internist at NYU Langone Health, who is studying how technology can increase access to treatment for substance use disorders. Instead, he said, funding should be targeted to meet the demand for treatment.

He said treatment locators not only need to maintain accurate information, but also need to change their patterns to allow people to do everything in one place: learn about addiction, research treatment providers and enroll seamlessly. in care.

Even a little movement in that direction can make a big difference, he said Hendre Jones, Executive Director of the Horizons Substance Treatment Program at the University of North Carolina for Women and Their Children. SAMHSA collects data on which facilities serve pregnant and postpartum patients, she said, but FindTreatment.gov does not allow users to filter by these categories. Changing this may be beneficial for some of patients who struggle the most to find care.

Perhaps the biggest improvement clinicians and public health experts want to see on FindTreatment.gov is an indicator of the quality of the facility. Currently, users can filter by type of treatment – detoxification, inpatient, outpatient – and whether an establishment offers drugs to opioid use disorder. But the site does not specify which types of care are more likely to be successful – although the federal government is funding research on the issue. SAMHSA has a minimal inspection process for the facilities shown, requiring only them to complete a survey and be licensed in their state.

Researchers and public health experts say this could lead to patients spending thousands of dollars on ineffective treatments or even predatory equipment. A a study published last year found that hundreds of housing programs on SAMHSA websites accept people for expensive treatment – sometimes encouraging them to get into debt – without judging whether they really need this level of care.

Frank Greenela New Jersey clinical social worker who specializes in addiction treatment said the reliance on a state license was wrong because many government agencies check only the documents on the sitewhich may list consulting or other services, even if they have never been provided.

Garrett, a spokesman for SAMHSA, told KHN that the agency trusts public health departments and other accreditation bodies to deal with substandard facilities. The statement also said that treatment decisions should ideally be made between patients and their doctors.

Other private and public treatment location tools have emerged to fill some of the gaps in FindTreatment.gov, although experts say they have their own shortcomings.

IN non-profit Shatterproof develop an online resource called ATLAS, which measures the quality of the facility. The website, which currently provides information on six states, includes patient reviews and asks providers to report whether they meet certain “signs of high-quality care”, such as offering appointments on the same day, providing drugs for opioid disorders and offering of individual counseling.

In four of these states, Shatterproof uses insurance claims data to track how often facilities apply best practices Shannon Biello, Vice President of Treatment Quality and Strategy for ATLAS. Although these data are not publicly visible, the facilities can have private access to them and see how they are compared to others in their country.

Patient advocates hope the platform will guide people to more effective care and encourage facilities to improve their practices. But they are also worried about the organization’s ability to become national and support a multimillion-dollar project.

In Ohio, a family set out to set up a treatment locator for the state.

Bill Ayars lost his 28-year-old daughter Jennifer to a drug overdose in 2016. FindTreatment.gov did not exist at the time. Ayars simply had a notebook in which the family wrote down the names of the facilities they had called to get help from Jennifer. He wanted to give other families a better place to start.

In 2017, together with his then-fiancée, younger daughter and several employees, Ayars launched a site for the location of treatment. In the end, he listed 1,200 addiction treatment providers in Ohio and garnered more than 200,000 visitors. It was presented on the website of the state agency for mental health and addictions, printed on the documents for the discharge of a large hospital system and indicated on leaflets distributed by syringe service programs.

“We felt very good in filling the gap,” said Ayars of Cleveland.

But it was a significant lift. The fiancée and Ayars employees often spend 12 hours a day calling the facilities and updating their information every six months. The project costs more than $ 100,000 a year, he said.

So when SAMHSA launches FindTreatment.gov, Ayars retires site instead, his team had built and directed visitors to the national resource.

Experts say it is crucial for families like Ayars to improve FindTreatment.gov.

“People who are looking for help deserve immediate help,” Jones said in North Carolina. “Having a national treatment locator that is up-to-date and easy to find is the first step in this recovery.”

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism on health issues. Along with policy analysis and surveys, KHN is one of the three main operational programs in KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is a gifted non-profit organization that provides information on the nation’s health issues.

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