Addiction Screening Should be Required Practice

Few doctors currently screen patients for addiction or mental illness, and requiring health plans to do so could get more people into needed treatment, according to a new report.

UPI reported July 11 that researcher Constance Horgan of the Institute for Behavioral Health at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University reported that 68 percent of Americans had an appointment with a primary-care doctor within the past year, and there are a number of effective tools that doctors could use to quickly screen patients for mental illness or addictive disorders. But only 34 percent of health plans required any sort of screening.

“There is a growing emphasis on the role of primary-care doctors in addressing behavioral-health problems, and screening for mental health issues and substance abuse is one important strategy that physicians can use to identify problems and get patients into treatment,” Horgan said.

The study was published in the July 2007 issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Research Reference: Horgan, C.M., Garnick, D.W., Merrick, E.L., Hoyt, A. (2007) Health Plan Requirements for Mental Health and Substance Use Screening in Primary Care. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 22(7): 930-936; doi: 10.1007/s11606-007-0208-2.

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