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Study Highlights Need for Substance Abuse Treatment Among Workers Without Health Insurance

An estimated 3 million full-time workers in America without health insurance needed substance use treatment in the past year, according to a national survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Those workers represent 3 percent of all full-time employees without health care insurance. Levels of need particularly were high among those who were aged 18 to 25 (24.4 percent) and males (19.2 percent).

The survey revealed that among these uninsured workers in need of substance use treatment, only 12.6 percent received treatment at a specialty facility. More than 80 percent of uninsured full-time workers needing treatment in the past year did not perceive a need for treatment. While the remaining 6.6 percent of all workers in need of treatment did perceive the need for treatment, they did not receive it.

“This tremendous unmet need for substance use disorder treatment among this workforce has a devastating public health and economic effect on our nation,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D. “We cannot afford to ignore this problem – substance use disorder treatment has proven to be a cost-effective investment for promoting safe and productive workplaces as well as renewed hope for those affected by this disease.”

A major benefit/cost evaluation of overall substance treatment programs determined that every $1 invested in substance abuse treatment yielded $7 in benefits to society in the form of reduced crime costs and increased employer earnings. Other studies have shown that employees receiving needed substance use treatment have dramatically reduced rates of absenteeism, tardiness, on-the-job injuries, mistakes and disagreements with supervisors.

The report, “Substance Use Treatment Need among Uninsured Workers,” is based on data collected during 2007 to 2008 from a nationally representative sample of 10, 210 adults aged 18 to 64 employed full time and without health insurance who participated in SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

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