Barriers to addiction treatment and related service denials to persons with disabilities: a multinational perspective Steven L. West, Associate Professor, Department of Rehabilitation Counseling, Virginia Commonwealth University, USA
Abstract Substance use and misuse by persons with disabilities is a major public health problem that has, until late, been largely overlooked. Although rates of misuse and addiction range from 15- to over 50% across the various populations within this group, few individuals with disabilities appear in the treatment populations of most western nations. Mounting evidence suggests that barriers in the physical environment and the failure to accommodate services for persons with sensory and cognitive impairments are leading causes of this problem. This presentation details findings from five research efforts from the U.K., Canada, and the U.S. which detail the presence of physical and programmatic barriers which limit the ability of persons with disabilities to access addiction treatment.
Collectively, these studies indicate that well over 75% of facilities have substantial barriers which limit accessibility, and as many as 30% of addiction treatment providers are located in totally inaccessible settings. Treatment denials based on inaccessibility are also common. Taken together, these efforts indicate that service denials to persons with disabilities dues to physical and programmatic accessibility concerns range from 30- to over 50%. Inaccessibility of facilities and programs directly limits the ability of individuals with disabilities to obtain services and thus hinder their attempts to attain and maintain sobriety. Given the multinational scope of this issue, advocacy for change and remediation of barriers to treatment is needed. Implications for treatment providers and public health officials are detailed.
Steven L. West, Ph.D., CRC is an Associate Professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Counseling at the Virginia Commonwealth University. His research focuses on the correlates, consequences, and treatment of addictions concerns among persons with disabilities.