Researchers urge increased access to residential treatment for opioid use disorder

CHICAGO – A new study conducted by Northwestern Medicine has found that only 7% of Medicaid enrollees with opioid use disorder (OUD) across nine states received residential treatment, which is considered one of the best treatments for severe substance use. The study sheds light on the need for effective treatment for millions of Americans who live with OUD.

The study also found that usage of residential treatment varied widely across the nine states. While some states provided treatment for only 0.3% of their Medicaid enrollees with OUD, others provided treatment for up to 14.6%. The contrast in usage could be due to differences in insurance coverage by state, supply of facilities, and the characteristics of the states’ populations.

“Residential treatment – as long as it is evidence-based – is one of the best treatments for those with severe substance use,” said Lindsay Allen, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and corresponding author of the study. “It helps move people into meaningful long-term recovery, which saves lives and reduces the need for costly health care in the long term.”

The nine states that took part in the study represent 14.9 million people or 20% of all Medicaid enrollees. The findings of the study underscore the need for effective treatment for OUD and provide a baseline for future research on OUD treatment and policy. Funding for the study was provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health.