According to the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 21.5 million people in the US have some form of substance use disorder. Many of those people also have some form of mental or physical disability, which can make it a challenge for this segment of the population to get needed rehab services for substance abuse or addiction.
Treatment options do exist for people with mental and physical disabilities; however, not all treatment centers are able to provide the treatment options, responses to concerns, or specific programs needed for people who have physical and mental health disabilities and who are also in need of treatment for addiction. To help people with disabilities recover from substance abuse or addiction, a treatment center and its staff need to understand what the special needs of these populations are.
While the connection between disability and substance abuse is still being researched, there are definite connections between the two. Information from the Christopher and Diana Reeve Foundation Paralysis Resource Center indicates that substance abuse occurs more often in the disabled community than in the general population.
This population is particularly in need of drug abuse and addiction treatment services that can meet their needs.
However, facilities that accommodate these specific needs do exist. Based on the individual’s specific disability and the concerns related to that challenge, programs can provide the range of services needed, including accessibility to both physical space and information.
For people with physical disabilities, like spinal cord injury, amputation, or arthritis, as well as for those with sensory disabilities like blindness and deafness, the main concerns surrounding treatment involve accessibility. The simple inability to be able to access all areas of the treatment center with a wheelchair can mean the difference between a person being able to get appropriate treatment or being left out of that possibility.
In addition, communication can be a problem. For a deaf person, having someone who can sign during counseling sessions is important, as is making reading materials accessible for those who are blind through braille materials or other means.
However, many treatment facilities do not provide this level of accessibility. The American Association on Health and Disability demonstrated that a large percentage of facilities – more than half – had to turn away patients with traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury because of physical barriers to treatment. In other words, the facilities were not accessible. This was true whether or not the facilities were public or privately owned, or were residential, outpatient, or hospital-based.
Those with mental disabilities require concessions to accessibility of a different kind. For this segment of the population, the issue often involves not being able to take in or process the information provided as easily, resulting in the person becoming discouraged and giving up on treatment. Therefore, the concerns for treatment of those with cognitive or intellectual disabilities tend more toward finding programs that can help these individuals get the most out of the program within their cognitive limitations.
Backing this up, research in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs seems to indicate that, while people with physical disabilities could participate in mainstream treatment programs as long as physical accessibility was provided, those with mental disabilities would be better served with specialized programs and staff who are trained specifically to meet their cognitive needs.
Based on the information above, the following are some specific programs needed for those with physical disabilities:
An article in Social Work Today helps to clarify what is needed for those with mental disabilities:
For those who struggle with mental or physical disabilities, it’s important to find a treatment center that understands and that can provide this level of care. Talking with an intake specialist to determine whether or not the facility can meet these needs is an important step before selecting a facility. If needed, groups like the American Association on Health and Disability can provide resources that help an individual or loved ones find an appropriate facility.
Once the right treatment center for the individual has been found, specialized services can help that person take in the information needed to learn new skills and coping mechanisms to create a future managing the disability and the substance use disorder. This can give the person a positive chance at maintaining abstinence and a life of recovery far into the future.