Integrating Substance Use Services into the Healthcare System

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Integrating substance use services into the healthcare system can improve access to those services for 20.9 million Americans. This statistic signifies that several people need SUD treatment but don’t receive it. Integrating these services can also prevent SUD among 68 million Americans who utilize psychoactive substances unsafely [1].

Apart from SUD treatment accessibility, there are other benefits of integrating SUD services for patients and healthcare providers. For this reason, knowing more about substance use services and the advantages of integration is crucial.

What are Substance Use Services?

Substance use services include all necessary treatment and recovery methods for addiction or substance use disorder. These services may include outpatient, detox, residential, case management, medication-assisted treatment (MAT), and recovery services.

Outpatient services in SUD services typically involve counseling and suitable therapeutic strategies. Detox also involves intake, observation, use of medication, and discharge.

Benefits of Integrating Substance Use Services into the Healthcare System

According to a journal published in NIH, integrating substance use services into healthcare can reduce substance use [2]. Over time, it will help improve patients’ physical and mental well-being. Here are some of the notable benefits of the integration.

Increased Reach in Substance Use Treatment

Among 23.5 million Americans who should get treatment for substance use disorder, only 2.6 million receive it [3]. One of the reasons for that is the stigma that many believe comes with substance use treatment. Many also believe employers and others in the community have negative thoughts about people experiencing SUD. Hence, they feel compelled to keep their challenges secret.

Many people who recognize the need for substance use services don’t receive them due to the stigma. Integrating substance use services into the healthcare system may help solve the stigma problem. Most people may perceive SUD as a common healthcare diagnosis.

Another significant factor affecting the reach of SUD treatment is mild or severe levels of ignorance. Some individuals believe they do not have a mental health condition that requires professional attention. However, a notable percentage of individuals visit treatment centers for physical and mental conditions relating to substance use.

A study shows that over 7.5 million individuals visit emergency departments for conditions relating to alcohol use [4]. With the integration of SUD services into the healthcare system, patients can get a proper diagnosis of both their physical ailments and substance use disorder.

Improved Overall Care and Clinical Outcomes

When substance use services get integrated into the healthcare system, it becomes easier to improve overall clinical outcomes. For instance, health organizations can effectively address substance use behaviors that complicate other physical and behavioral problems. Hence, patients can easily experience an improved physical and mental health state.

Improved overall care due to integration will also be noticeable in people with HIV. Most people with HIV experience comorbid substance abuse, which causes severe adverse effects. However, integrated SUD services in the healthcare system increase the chances of antiretroviral therapy.

Integration can also be very effective in treating conditions like anxiety and depression. Patients with those conditions can benefit from the availability of health care providers and treatment programs after integration.

Overall Healthcare Cost Savings

Many adults in the United States have problems affording general healthcare and dental costs. For this reason, most people don’t get the much-needed care or prescriptions. Integrated SUD services in healthcare can decrease hospitalization rates, emergency department use, and inpatient days. The outcome of those changes will cause a significant drop in the cost of healthcare.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, brief physician advice can save $4.30 for every dollar spent [5]. Overall, utilizing SUD services for patients can help lower total medical costs for young adults and older individuals. Besides major healthcare cost savings, it may also help patients save in non-medical areas like incarceration.

Reduced healthcare costs can also help against financial stress, which causes better sleep, reduced anxiety, and improved immune system performance.

Improved Early Identification of Substance Abuse and Relapse Prevention

Integrating substance use services into the healthcare system allows medical providers to identify substance abuse early. Health organizations can utilize screen tools like CAGE and the CAGE-AID. CAGE involves following a questionnaire for conjointly screening drug and alcohol problems. Other useful comprehensive tools include the World Health Organization’s ASSIST and AUDIT instruments.

Early identification of substance abuse can help health providers employ various helpful intervention techniques. These methods include motivational interviewing, which is imperative to elicit behavior change. Motivational interviewing is a counseling approach that is helpful for patients with mixed feelings about changing their behavior.

Integration of substance use services into the healthcare system may also help prevent risky drug intake from developing into more serious problems. Patients in recovery may also enjoy better treatment retention, reducing relapses and improving overall health.

Improvement in Various Health Domains

There are seven fundamental health domains, which include physical health, environmental health, social health, occupational health, emotional health, financial health, and intellectual health.

Reduction in intake of drugs and alcohol due to integrated SUD services can help improve health domains negatively impacted by substance use. SUD relates to an increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases, hepatitis, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, gynecologic, and metabolic issues.

EchoVantage Provides Support for Substance Use Services

EchoVantage provides suitable solutions for substance use recovery agencies. We provide guidance and technology to support health organizations and their patients through behavioral health services, including inpatient, outpatient programs, and integrated care.

The optimized billing process from EchoVantage makes it easier for you to manage substance use recovery processes relating to intakes and outcomes. With substance use services integrated into the healthcare system, patients can also process payments electronically. EchoVantage helps both agencies and clinics manage their cash flow.

EchoVantage provides support for:

  • Integrated Care
  • Outpatient services
  • Inpatient/Residential services
  • Assertive Community Treatment
  • Behavioral Health Rehabilitation Services

Provide whole treatment to your patients by appropriately practicing integrated care with EchoVantage. Sign up for a demo of our product and get an EHR compatible with an integrated care model!

Everything Your Agency Needs, All in One Place


  1. Padwa, H., Urada, D., Antonini, V. P., Ober, A., Crèvecoeur-MacPhail, D. A., & Rawson, R. A. (2012). Integrating substance use disorder services with primary care: the experience in California. Journal of psychoactive drugs, 44(4), 299–306.
  2. Gryczynski, J., Mitchell, S. G., Peterson, T. R., Gonzales, A., Moseley, A., & Schwartz, R. P. (2011). The relationship between services delivered and substance use outcomes in New Mexico’s Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral and Treatment (SBIRT) Initiative. Drug and alcohol dependence, 118(2-3), 152–157.
  3. SAMHSA, (2010). Results from the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables, ‘Prevalence Estimates, Standard Errors, P Values, and Sample Sizes’,
  4. McDonald AJ 3rd, Wang N, Camargo CA Jr. US emergency department visits for alcohol-related diseases and injuries between 1992 and 2000. Arch Intern Med. 2004 Mar 8;164(5):531-7. doi: 10.1001/archinte.164.5.531. PMID: 15006830.
  5. Fleming MF, Mundt MP, French MT, Manwell LB, Stauffacher EA, Barry KL. Brief physician advice for problem drinkers: long-term efficacy and benefit-cost analysis. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2002 Jan;26(1):36-43. PMID: 11821652.


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