Among ethnic groups in America, there are many variables when it comes to addiction and substance abuse. Hispanics tend to have less access to treatment than white Americans. And to add to that is the fact that Hispanics are also less likely to complete a treatment program once they have entered it. Factors may include a lack of access to quality care, lack of cultural and bilingual understanding and lack of engagement, among others. It is up to professionals in the addiction community to correct this issue and make care more accessible and effective for all patients.
Treatment Completion Rates
Going through treatment for addiction isn’t easy for anyone. It takes a lot of stamina and hard work to do what is necessary to complete a treatment program to get sober. Among the general population of people seeking treatment, barely more than half complete it. About 62 percent of white patients finish addiction treatment, but only 50 percent of Hispanic patients do. The Hispanic rate is comparable to that of African American patients.
The statistics come from a recent study completed by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, the Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School. They looked at more than 1 million discharged addiction treatment patients from across the country. The disparities between minority and white patients were significant and troubling. Thousands fewer Hispanics finished treatment as compared to white patients.
Factors Affecting Completion
For the researchers, finding the facts about completion rates was not enough. They wanted to know why Hispanics and other minority patients are much less likely to follow through with treatment and what could be changed. Treatment programs cited several reasons why patients left before finishing, including incarceration or being expelled by the program.
The researchers found that the most of the termination reasons could be explained by one important and far-reaching factor: socioeconomic status. Hispanic patients, as compared to white patients in the study, were more likely to be unemployed and to be coping with housing instabilities or to be truly homeless. Patients living in poverty have competing concerns that can draw them out of treatment early. The study did adjust for socioeconomic factors and still found that Hispanics were less likely to complete treatment. This finding suggests that Hispanic patients are not being treated as well, as effectively or being as engaged as their white counterparts.
Improving Completion Rates
With socioeconomic factors the biggest players in Hispanics not finishing addiction treatment, researchers suggest that the Affordable Health Care Act could help. If it expands Medicaid to include more coverage of integrated addiction treatment centers, more Hispanic patients would be able to start and finish a program. Hispanic patients also need more access to residential programs. When the researchers looked at socioeconomic factors among patients in these types of programs, there were fewer differences among patients of different ethnic groups. When housing and cost of treatment are no longer factors, more patients will remain in treatment long enough to complete the program.
Socioeconomic factors are important, but the research also tells us that Hispanic patients aren’t being treated the same as white patients. Professionals in these settings need to be aware of the disparity and learn to be culturally sensitive or to provide bilingual programs. More extensive study is needed to pinpoint more specific ways in which treatment programs can retain more minority patients. Something about treatment is not engaging these vulnerable patients, and that needs to change.