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Advancing Recovery: Implementing Evidence-Based Treatment for Substance Use Disorders at the Systems Level

Laura A. Schmidt, Traci Rieckmann, Amanda Abraham, Todd Molfenter, Victor Capoccia, Paul Roman, David H. Gustafson, Dennis McCarty

Objective: A multisite evaluation examined the process and outcomes of Advancing Recovery, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation initiative to overcome barriers to implementing evidence-based treatments within alcohol and drug treatment systems. Method: We report findings from a 3-year, mixed-method study of how treatment systems promoted two evidence-based practices: medication-assisted treatment and continuing care management. We compared outcomes and implementation strategies across 12 state/county agencies responsible for alcohol and drug treatment and their selected treatment centers. Each partnership received 2 years of financial and technical support to increase adoption of evidence-based treatments. Results: Partnerships flexibly applied the Advancing Recovery model to promote the adoption of evidence-based treatments. Most sites achieved a measurable increase in the numbers of patients served with evidence-based practices, up from a baseline of virtually no use. Rates of adopting medication-based treatments were higher than those for continuing care management. Partnerships used a menu of top-down and bottom-up strategies that varied in specifics across sites but shared a general process of incremental testing and piecemeal adaptation. Conclusions: Supported partnerships between providers and policymakers can achieve wider adoption of evidence-based treatment practices. Systems change unfolds through a trial-and-error process of adaptation and political learning that is unique to each treatment system. This leads to considerable state and local variation in implementation strategies and outcomes. (J. Stud. Alcohol Drugs, 73, 413422, 2012)