Substance abuse and serious mental illness often go hand-in-hand.
Across the nation, about 90% of people with substance use conditions aren’t receivingany care for their substance use. Yet individuals with co-occurring SMI and substance use are often among the highest utilizers in their systems of care. At Telecare, these co-occurring conditions are very prevalent: 70% of our clients are also dealing with substance abuse. The majority of these individuals do not recognize that their substance use is affecting their health and wellness, aren’t currently considering treatment, and aren’t considering a change in their use of substances. 
Sound familiar? For providers and systems, these co-occurring conditions present an enormous shared challenge:

  • How do we reach people who aren’t actively ready for a change?
  • How can we improve health outcomes in people who are not contemplating substance use treatment?
  • How can we integrate substance use and mental health care in a way that’s both cost-effective and clinically effective, while also taking into account that access to residential substance use treatment remains limited?

Co-Occurring Education Groups: 

At Telecare, we recently piloted a new approach to address these challenges: Co-Occurring Education Groups (COEG). Over a two-year period we developed and tested a standardized curriculum that is provided in groups – a curriculum that educates our clients about co-occurring conditions while also getting them thinking about their personal hopes and dreams. This curriculum supports Telecare’s mission to improve the health of the people we serve while helping them realize their full potential.

Earlier this year we conducted a six-month pilot of this curriculum in 11 of our programs. We measured its effectiveness through the use of two validated substance use screenings, AUDIT and DAST, as well as written feedback from group participants and facilitators. In July, our data analysis showed promising results, indicating the Co-Occurring Education Groups materials were well received by participants and the groups were associated with some exciting behavior changes:

  • An almost 14% reduction of very high-risk alcohol use (according to pre and post AUDIT scores)
  • A 19% reduction of very high-risk drug use (according to pre and post DAST scores)
  • More than 90% of participants felt they understood the materials and would be able to apply the content to their lives

COEG Overview