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How Texas is Using Substance Use Treatment Telehealth

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A profile of two innovative (and free) virtual substance use recovery programs in Texas

Despite there being effective treatments available for people struggling with substance use disorder (SUD), only around 10% of the people with SUD in the United States receive treatment.

There are a range of factors impacting this situation. Stigma, concerns over privacy, and a perceived lack of need for treatment to name a few.

But there are two factors that commonly rise to the top in discussions about barriers to substance use recovery treatment: Cost and availability.

Put simply, many people struggling with SUD can’t afford the cost of treatment. And even when they can, a lack of availability of high-quality, evidence-based treatment in a client’s local area means they can’t access the care they need.  

In response to these concerns, and the ongoing opioid overdose epidemic in the US, public health authorities, treatment providers, and community groups continue to explore innovative new ways to provide substance use recovery treatment.

In this article, we’ll profile two programs overcoming access issues by offering free SUD treatment via telehealth to residents of Texas.

But first, let’s do a quick recap of why telehealth is increasingly being used in behavioral healthcare.

Is Telehealth Effective?

Many people pinpoint the COVID-19 pandemic as being the main driving force behind the rise of telehealth. But the fact is, it was on the rise well before then.

In fact, back in 2017, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) released a report that reviewed all of the available evidence on digital mental health care (telehealth, web-based therapy, mental health apps, etc).

After reviewing over 90 studies and pieces of evidence, they made the following observations (amongst many others):

  1. Most mental health services delivered virtually are as effective as face-to-face visits.
  2. Coach-facilitated virtual mental health treatment, such as through an online course or app, is as effective as in-person treatment.
  3. Digital tools can improve the quality and effectiveness of in-person therapy. For example, when homework exercises or between-session check-ins are combined with face-to-face care.

Now that we know telehealth is effective for mental health and substance use recovery treatment, let’s look at some of the benefits.

Advantages of Telehealth for SUD Treatment

Telehealth has become very popular for substance use recovery treatment—with good reason.

A report commissioned by the White House to examine telehealth and substance use disorder services stated, “It can be hard to imagine any potential drawbacks to the use of telehealth services.” Then went on to list the following benefits.

  • Access to Health Care: Telehealth drastically improves access to SUD treatment. Clients are no longer limited to the providers in their local area. Transport isn’t a barrier to treatment. And if clients have specific requirements, such as a provider of a particular age, gender or cultural background, or with a certain skill set, they can access a far wider pool of clinicians.
  • Improved Outreach: Telehealth overcomes geographical barriers and the lack of diversity and availability of providers in regional areas. It allows clients living in remote areas to access gold-standard evidence-based care, which is often only available in metropolitan areas. It also gives providers access to a wider range of specialists to consult for clients they are treating in-person or online.
  • Cost Savings Potential: As a provider, you know that part of the cost incurred by clients (and payers) for substance use recovery treatment goes on capital expenditures, like office space, information technology infrastructure, and administrative support staff. And that’s before even getting into how much a trip to the ER for substance use treatment might cost! By using telehealth, it’s easier to deliver low-to-no-cost care to clients.

Get a free demo of EchoVantage today!

Virtual Substance Use Recovery Programs in Texas

Leading the way in using telehealth for SUD treatment, are two programs run by the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health)—Be Well Texas and Recovery Texas.

We’ll provide an overview of each service below.

Be Well Texas

Supported by funding from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, Be Well Texas offers expert care in addiction treatment to all people in Texas, regardless of their ability to pay.

Because the team at Be Well Texas is composed of addiction medicine specialists and behavioral health experts, they can provide comprehensive, high-quality, evidence-based care for all addictions and non-severe mental illness.

Their list of services includes:

  • Psychiatric evaluation
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
  • Counseling (individual and family-based)
  • Case management and care coordination
  • Peer recovery support
  • Digital support tools  

Be Well Texas incorporates the following to enhance access:

  • Various payment options, including insurance, grant funding, and private pay on a sliding scale. Treatment can be provided for free for clients who qualify.
  • Telehealth and virtual visits. While in-person treatment is available, clients can choose to have all or part of their care done virtually, including having medications mailed to them.
  • Wrap-around support services to help clients with psychosocial challenges and barriers to care.

Now let’s take a look at Recovery Texas.

Recovery Texas

Recovery Texas is another UT Health program that provides SUD services to Texas residents, but with more of a focus on peer-supported recovery than Be Well Texas. While the programs are run separately, many clients access both simultaneously.

Describing their program offering as, “Confidential recovery services for alcohol and drug addiction, mental health, and other recovery support,” Recovery Texas offers free and flexible digital peer support services in a variety of formats. They prioritize meeting people struggling with addiction and mental health issues wherever, whenever, and however works for them.

All of the practitioners at Recovery Texas are certified peer support specialists, with lived experience of substance use and/or mental health recovery.

Clients can choose to connect with a peer specialist 1:1 by phone, video call, or online chat. There are no rigid criteria to access support. Recovery Texas staff simply provide effective, no-strings-attached holistic care, to partner with clients in identifying, then implementing recovery and wellness goals.

In addition to 1:1 support, Recovery Texas also offers the following all-digital group-based services:

  • Daily recovery meetings
  • Recovery Yoga
  • Guided meditation sessions

Finally, for clients who are not yet ready to talk to someone, Recovery Texas provides:

  • An online screening tool, for people to determine whether they are experiencing symptoms of a substance use or mental health condition.
  • A recovery resource hub, full of information that people can use in a self-directed way to support their recovery journey.

Benefits of Telehealth SUD Treatment for the Texas Community

There are many benefits of telehealth substance use recovery programs like Be Well Texas and Recovery Texas for the community.

For clients, there are now comprehensive, affordable, high-quality treatment options available, for everyone. Be Well Texas and Recovery Texas address most of the major access barriers to SUD treatment for clients. People can now get high-quality, evidence-based treatment according to their personal health situation and treatment preferences, no matter where they live.

The wider community also benefits, as they now know that if a friend, family member, or colleague is struggling with substance misuse, help is readily available.

Finally, all healthcare and human services providers in Texas benefit from expanded access to comprehensive telehealth substance use recovery treatment. Some examples would be physicians being able to refer for specialist advice and assistance with medication-assisted therapy. Solo or small group counseling providers having somewhere to direct their clients to for peer-supported recovery. And general human services workers, like case managers or support workers being able to help their clients struggling with SUD access clinical care.

Digital Tools for Substance Use Recovery Treatment

Clinicians and peer support specialists are the lifeblood of services like Be Well Texas and Recovery Texas, but they need the right tools to bring their life-changing care to clients.

At Therapy Brands, we understand the needs of behavioral health clinicians wanting to embrace telehealth and digital healthcare. Our innovative mental health with substance use recovery practice management software is created by therapists, for therapists.

Products like EchoVantage give behavioral health businesses of any size the tools needed to operate an effective, efficient, and profitable digital mental health with substance use recovery treatment program, all on a single platform.

With a fully featured EHR system, engagement tools like client portals and appointment reminders, integrated HIPAA-compliant telehealth, e-prescribing for MAT, billing management, comprehensive reporting, and more, our all-in-one software solutions let your team spend less time on administration so you have more time to care for patients. To find out more, get a demo of EchoVantage today!



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