The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed more inequities with our health system than we can count. As we round out September as “Recovery Month” it’s important to name that COVID-19 has been particularly hard for people with substance use disorders, and for health providers in this field. Addiction treatment and services are always in short supply, and the coronavirus makes this worse. What’s more, drug overdoses are increasing, and the pandemic that has forced closing of some facilities and a shift to virtual services has made it particularly difficult for people with substance use disorders to get and stay healthy.  

This reminds us of the need to focus on the big system changes that will ensure everyone has the ability to live a healthy life in recovery.  

In this vein, Community Catalyst’s Substance Use Disorders team just launched a national online survey to increase the voice of people with substance use challenges and people in recovery in improving the system. We want to hear from people from every state and US territory and from every demographic.  

We are looking for people who are 21 years or older AND who have lived experience of substance use challenges, including addiction. This includes people with substance use disorders, people who are still using substances, people in recovery (using whatever definition of recovery is right for you), and family members of adults with substance use challenges, including those who have died from substance use. 

People can take the survey right away! It will take about 15 minutes. 

What specifically are we trying to accomplish? 

We want to ensure treatment and recovery services are designed to achieve the outcomes most important to consumers, and that programs and providers are evaluated and funded on how well they achieve those outcomes.   

As a major step in the process, Community Catalyst, in partnership with Faces & Voices of Recovery and the American Society for Addiction Medicineis asking people all over the country to complete an anonymous survey to tell us:  

  1. What “good” treatment and recovery services look like  

  1. How treatment and services should improve peoples’ lives  

  1. If treatment and recovery goals change during a pandemic like COVID 

We plan to bring this information, along with input from focus groups, to our nationally representative National Peer Council, which will make recommendations to policymakers at all levels on what matters most to consumers.  This project is supported by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. It is part of Community Catalyst’s work to address long-standing problems with treatment/services for people with substance use disorders: there is not enough treatment overall, only spotty insurance coverage, too much low-quality care, too many profit-driven providers, and a system marked by discrimination and racism – we could go on and on. And of course, COVID-19 makes this all worse. 

From the research side, there are very few quality standards to help us assess services, and the standards that do exist do not reflect what matters most to people with addiction and in recovery. Without standards and quality measures that focus on what people need, it’s no wonder services don’t meet that need.  

How can we have the most impact?  

We encourage advocates and stakeholders to share this opportunity with their families, friends, and community networks. Many of us are close to this issue; most of us know someone in recovery, or who tragically hasn’t been able to get the services they need when they needed them.  

Recovery looks different for everyone, and we want to include multiple pathways and views, from people all over the country. Because of systemic oppression and racism in our health system, we also know factors like income, race, gender, sexual orientation, and other social determinants affect access to quality treatment and services. They also affect the experiences people have with recovery services. We want to reach as many communities as possible, and particularly to hear from those facing historical and present oppression. 

This survey will help us learn what people want most out of treatment and services, and we will promote these findings to policymakers and clinicians to change the health system to work better for people.  We hope health advocates and other stakeholders will join in these advocacy efforts to influence research, quality standards, accrediting standards and other ways to improve care!  

Contact with any questions about the project. 

Please share this opportunity with your networks! Even though Recovery Month is almost over, our fight to make the system better is ongoing!