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Beeler Presents Work at UIC Chancellor’s SparkTalks

Beeler SparkTalks

Jane Addams College of Social Work Assistant Professor Sara Beeler, PhD, LCSW, MPA,  presented “Building Equitable and Responsive Systems of Care for Persons who use Drugs and Alcohol” at SparkTalks, UIC’s take on three-minute lightning talks that provides an opportunity for faculty, leaders, and others to foster collaboration and idea exchange among faculty across all colleges.

Beeler presented her ongoing research involving patients seeking care at a mobile health van so she can better understand perceptions of care for people who use drugs and ways to improve collaborative and interdisciplinary care. She highlighted suggestions for next steps in research and practice.

More than 60 million people reported using substances in the past year, and nearly 50 million met conditions for a substance-use disorder. However, only one in four reported receiving substance-use treatment in the past year, Beeler said.

“Not perceiving a need for or wanting services is the most reported reason for not accessing substance-use treatment,” she said. “This can be caused by a variety of reasons, but recent research highlights that not wanting treatment or perceiving a need for it can be attributed to earlier experiences, particularly among people who inject drugs, of stigma from health care providers, and low health-literacy levels.

“This gap in care for drug and alcohol use is widening health disparities and the social consequences associated with use including employment, housing and criminal legal involvement. The risks continue to accumulate while drug overdose continues to be the most preventable leading cause of death in the United States.”

The continuum of care for substance use includes a spectrum of services, ranging from harm-reduction services, such as those to decrease the harm or risk associated with ongoing drug and alcohol use, to more formal treatment options, such as intensive inpatient and outpatient services, Beeler said. Substance-use disorders are also highly co-morbid with other chronic health disorders and persistent mental health issues. As a result, the gold standard of care is integrated and comprehensive treatment so a person can access or be connected to most of their service needs in one place. This, she said, is often not the case due to a lack of funding and resources.

“The systems of care are often complex and difficult to navigate,” Beeler said. “This can create a ‘burden of care,’ particularly for individuals being released from correctional systems.” View Beeler’s SparkTalk here.