Research and Impact

Study finds creation of substance use programs in hospitals are driven by needs assessments

Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine researchers recently contributed to a study that found hospitals were more likely to put in place support services to address substance use in their community if a needs assessment indicated it was an issue needing attention. Substance use disorder (SUD) and overdose rates are on the rise in the U.S., with the number of deaths by opioid overdose in 2022 reaching more than 81,000. However, not all hospitals offer programs to address substance use and it depends largely on hospital resources.

Researchers analyzed the Community Health Needs Assessments (CHNA) and subsequent SUD strategies of non-profit hospitals nationwide. Study co-investigator Luke Kubacki, OMS IV, explained that CHNAs and their implementation strategies offer valuable insights into the health needs of a given community. 

“Analyzing these outcomes helps researchers and policymakers understand hospital decision-making processes, the factors influencing these decisions and the supportive role they can play if the necessary resources are unavailable,” said Kubacki.

Findings indicate a significant correlation between an identified need for more and better SUD services and increased implementation of services. These services include interdisciplinary addiction consultations and harm reduction programs such as syringe service programs and naloxone distribution.

“These programs need support. The role local hospitals play in addressing SUD is crucial,” co-investigator Lauren Donovan, D.O. (’24), said. “Previous research tells us that hospital intervention strategies can increase patients’ likelihood of pursuing further clinical and behavioral treatment for SUD and trust in the health care system in general.”

The study also found smaller hospitals with fewer resources to allocate to new programs may not be equipped to effectively address SUD in their community even if the need is identified. Researchers and local policymakers may be able to address resource gaps by supporting the establishment of SUD services.

Berkeley Franz, Ph.D., Osteopathic Heritage Foundation Ralph S. Licklider, D.O., Endowed Faculty Fellow in Behavioral Health, and co-director of Ohio University’s Institute to Advance Health Equity (ADVANCE) worked as a co-investigator on the study. She echoes the significance of this research as it relates to SUD and ADVANCE’s mission, which is to advance health equity through interdisciplinary research, collaboration and community partnerships that address social determinants of health.

“Thinking about this issue from ADVANCE’s emphasis on social determinants of health, there are several social factors which may complicate someone’s relationship with the health care system and prevent them from getting the care they need,” Franz said. “But if we can ensure these hospital support services are in place, when we get someone in the hospital we can help them engage with the care they need, help treat them and hopefully build trust. Hospitalization is one of the most important windows in substance use treatment.”

This study was led by primary investigator Cory Cronin, Ph.D., co-director of ADVANCE. Co-investigators are Kubacki, Donovan and Franz, Ph.D., from the Heritage College, as well as Neeraj Puro, Ph.D., Florida Atlantic University; Dakota Lavinder, Ohio University College of Arts and Sciences; and Kristin Schuller, Ph.D., Towson University. 

June 24, 2024
Staff reports