Published Oct. 20 in the online edition of the peer-reviewed journal Health Services Research, the study finds that the average $1,583 cost of substance abuse treatment is offset by monetary benefits such as reduced costs of crime and increased employment earnings totaling $11,487.
The researcher team used detailed data from 2,567 clients admitted to 43 treatment providers in 13 California counties during 2000 and 2001. The information was gathered via an automated system operated by the California Treatment Outcome Project.
"Even without considering the health and quality-of-life benefits to drug treatment clients themselves, spending taxpayer dollars on substance abuse treatment appears to be a wise investment," said Susan Ettner, lead author and professor of general internal medicine and health services research at UCLAs David Geffen School of Medicine and School of Public Health.
The California Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, the Center for Substance Abuses Treatment, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation provided primary support for the study.
Ettner conducted the study with researchers from the UCLA Integrated Substance Abuse Programs at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. Other members of the research team included David Huang, Elizabeth Evans, Danielle Rose Ash, Mary Hardy, Mickel Jourabchi and Yih-Ing Hser.
The California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs implemented the California Treatment Outcome Project in 1998 at 43 treatment provider sites in the following counties: Alameda, El Dorado, Kern, Lassen, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Benito, San Diego, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo and San Mateo.
The project is intended to allow regular assessments of drug abuse treatment clients and their outcomes so counties can adjust programs to address changing needs over time. The project is the successor to CalDATA, which gathered similar but less comprehensive data more than a decade ago.
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