SAMHSA Issues Advisory on Low-Barrier Care for Substance Use Disorders

December 11, 2023

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has released an advisory that outlines recommendations for implementation of low-barrier models of care to significantly expand access to lifesaving treatment for individuals with substance use disorders (SUDs).

The advisory emphasizes the importance of low-barrier care in overcoming substantial gaps in access to SUD treatment and engaging more people in care. Despite robust evidence showing the effectiveness of SUD treatment, fewer than 10% of individuals who need care receive it. Barriers such as lack of treatment availability, strict program requirements, stigma, and discrimination have resulted in treatment gaps, especially among marginalized communities.

Low-barrier models of care minimize restrictions and requirements that may limit access to treatment and other interventions. They provide services in a welcoming, nonjudgmental manner that meets people where they are.

The advisory describes key principles of low-barrier care, including person-centeredness, harm reduction, flexibility, cultural responsiveness, and trauma-informed approaches. It also outlines essential components such as same-day treatment availability, integrating services across settings, telehealth options, individualized care, and peer support.

Research shows that low-barrier models can boost treatment engagement, reduce substance use, and lower the need for hospitalizations. However, fully realizing the benefits of low-barrier care requires policy and practice changes at all levels of the healthcare system.

SAMHSA aims to support providers, communities, and policymakers in implementing low-barrier models of care. Expanding access through low-barrier approaches can improve outcomes and save lives. Accordingly, this advisory provides actionable guidance to help make patient-centered, low-barrier treatment a reality.

Click here to access the full Advisory on Low Barrier Care for Substance Use Disorders for more information.

SAMHSA will host a webinar on this advisory, but details have not been shared yet. NJAMHAA will provide webinar details when they become available.

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