YU Shortage of Addiction Treatment Discussions

Respond to the following peer discussions:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupation Outlook Handbook’s (2023) prediction noted in the discussion prompt has already changed as the current link notes that the field is expected to grow 18% from 2022 to 2032. However, given the opioid epidemic and other factors, there are more serious shortages. For example, an article published in 2019 reported that the number of physicians trained to treat those addicted to opioids is approximately 3,000 throughout the country (Scutti, 2019). [[For a mental health disorder such as Substance Use Disorder,  (SUD) where the diagnosis is typically accompanied by moderate to severe physical problems, this is a real issue. The average general practitioner or internist in medicine is really undertrained in how to deal not just with the psychiatry of substance use disorders, but the pathologies brought on to the rest of the physical system.]]    Additionally, the shortage of skilled behavioral healthcare workers results in long waitlists for entering treatment in addition to the lack of trained physicians (Taylor, 2021). The problem is worse in rural areas [[Having lived myself in Montana for over 20 years and now in Rural Oregon I can assure you the problem is real!!]]  and Taylor (2021) also notes that burnout is a huge issue that contributes to high turnover in addiction treatment work.  [[One of my Ph.D. students is studying the issue of addiction worker retention and why people leave the field.]]

After reviewing the information, I wonder if licensing and training is a barrier to increasing the number of professionals working in addiction treatment. It takes many years and a significant financial investment to become a licensed provider. One way the government could help is by expanding the Healthcare Professional Shortage Program to include addiction and behavioral health providers (Health Resources & Services Administration, 2023). [[I only use the green highlighter when something a student says really excites me!  And is of maximum learning value for others of course   ]]   This is a program that offers student loan reimbursement for medical professionals who commit to working in underserved areas or workforce shortage areas. The government could also expand the criteria for who is qualified to administer medication-assisted treatment to those with opioid use disorders. [[This is slowly happening – changing provider qualifications for administering MAT.]]  

According to Straussner (2001), the field of social work was an integral and early proponent of recognizing the impact of substance abuse on individuals and families. The addiction treatment field seemed to want to follow the medical model, which is different from the social work model of person-in-environment, yet now substance abuse treatment factors in the person-in-environment while not exactly calling it that. [[Yes – addiction counseling and social work are growing closer.]]  I think the primary difference is that social work developed organically as a comprehensive method of working with people, and that included addiction, while addiction treatment as we know it now aimed to establish itself as an independent method of treatment.(esther)

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