Summary: One of the first steps in addiction treatment is finding the right clinic. However, those with some addiction find it highly challenging to find the right information. They often regard lack of information as the biggest hurdle in addiction treatment. Fortunately, SAHAMSA, a US govt. agency has developed a website Findtreatment.gov, where one can find information about all the addiction treatment centers nearby. However, users complain that this website does not work as intended. Most of the information provided on the website is either wrong or outdated. Thus, experts think that fixing this website is the single most important thing that the US govt. can do to help people get rid of their addiction.
There is no doubt that US government officials understand the barriers to seeking treatment for drug addiction. They have the budgets and tools to overcome these issues. But regretfully, they have still come up with a solution that does not seem to help as intended.
The reason? This online tool provides inaccurate and outdated information. Drug addiction is a significant problem in the US. It is the leading cause of death among young adults. Most of these deaths are preventable through timely help. However, young adults feel that finding help is quite challenging. Many studies have identified barriers to seeking help like lack of anonymity, perceived high costs, lack of sufficient information, and more. In addition, many young adults simply do not know where to seek medical help. Of course, one of the simple ways is Google search. However, many find that even it does not work well, as it may point to non-specialized clinics. Or, many sponsored Google search results are of clinics that may not serve the purpose well.
SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) has come up with an excellent idea that could help those living with addiction if it worked. They created a website Findtreatment.gov. At first sight, it is a pretty good solution. All you need to do is search the website by city or zip code, and it provides a list of all the clinics nearby that can help manage substance addiction. It is a massive database of 13,000 state-licensed treatment facilities. In addition, the website provides detailed information about the kind of services offered in each clinic, what insurance plans are accepted, and what kind of patients they treat.
When the project was launched, everyone was pretty excited, as it was definitely a step in the right direction. Finally, instead of finding information from various sources, one can find all the reliable information in one place. However, people who have used this platform say it does not serve its purpose well. It is barely in a condition to help people looking for information regarding addiction treatment. As a result, what could have become a gold standard tool for searching for addiction treatment, fails to provide any practical help.
People who have used it for the reasons understood say that when they search the platform, they get a long list of clinics. However, when they start calling those clinics, they learn that either the information is completely outdated or even telephone numbers are not working. Even if they can contact the addiction treatment clinics, they are surprised to learn that those clinics cannot cater to new clients. This is because they already have too many patients, and thus they are not taking any new patients.
Experts say that if the US has to overcome this substance addiction epidemic and reduce addiction-related deaths effectively, it must use technology. In addition, the government must ensure that its tools are up-to-date and they provide precise information. People living with addiction are hesitant to seek help. They readily give up if they do not get help after making some effort. One needs to understand that people addicted to substances differ from other patients. They lack that kind of patience. They would not seek help for long. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that when they search for help, it must be available.
The site FindTreatment.gov is still getting about 300,000 visitors. It means that people are trying to use this tool. However, considering the severity of the problem, not many people are using this website. That is why experts say that if the US authorities are serious about helping people with addiction, fixing this website is the most important thing they can do.
By Gurpreet Singh Padda, MD, MBA, MHP