Surgeon General’s Report on Addictions Notes Limitations of Substance Use Workforce

The substance use workforce and its challenges are discussed in the recently released Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon’s General Report on Alcohol, Drugs and Health (SAMHSA, 2016.)

The Report is a comprehensive review on addictions, covering the extent of substance use disorders in the U.S., the neurobiology of addiction, prevention and treatment, and health care systems. It addresses the substance use workforce briefly in Chapter 6 (Health Systems), where it discusses the issue of workforce shortage, citing not only an insufficient number of providers, but also a “scarcity of providers who can provide culturally competent services for minority populations.” It cites several reasons for these workforce problems, including high turnover rates and poor retention, an aging provider population, low pay, and the ever-increasing opioid epidemic that is straining all resources.

The Report notes the need for improved training and education for providers, especially as substance use (and mental health) services become more integrated in the primary care setting.

Workforce development and improvement are briefly highlighted, including the framework for workforce development created by the Annapolis Coalition. Also highlighted are HRSA’s initiatives to improve workforce distribution, such as the National Health Service Corp.

The full report, executive summary, and individual chapters can all be accessed here. The section on workforce is noted in Chapter 6, and begins at section 6-31 on page 274.


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