Cultural Competence Growing in Importance in Addiction Treatment

The Affordable Care Act has helped drive addiction medicine more into the mainstream of health care, and with that has come a broader spectrum of patient subsets and management challenges. A Sunday session is designed to improve the management of those patients.

“Cultural Competence in the Delivery of Addiction Treatment Services” will be presented from 8 to 9:30 am Sunday in Governors Ballroom B, Fourth Floor. Four speakers will identify challenges and present approaches taken to meet those challenges, especially in two subsets of patients.

“For a long time, the addiction field has not done a good job of dealing with cultural competence. It is not necessarily the field’s fault,” said session speaker Constance Weisner, DrPH, LCSW. “We had not been mainstreamed until the ACA happened. The public programs have not had the resources. For health care in general, and our field in particular, this has been an issue.”

The session will open with a review of the newest regulations and expectations for health systems and substance use treatment related to cultural competency, presented by the session moderator Deidra Y. Roach, MD. Dr. Roach is Medical Project Officer for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and her presentation will set the stage for Dr. Weisner.

“Dr. Weisner is not only well-versed in the literature of culturally competent health care, but has the lived experience of participating in the implementation of federal standards for cultural competence in health care in a very large HMO,” Dr. Roach said. “Her presentation will be foundational, providing the general platform upon which the other speakers will build their presentations focusing on specific populations.”

The Director of Faculty Development, Division of Research, Kaiser Permanente, University of California, San Francisco, Dr. Weisner will discuss steps Kaiser has taken to address the needs of some patient subsets. Those include making information available in multiple languages and in creative, interactive formats using information technology.

“In primary care, an innovation could be that if someone has been screened for a drinking problem, a physician could have a regional person on tap through a video consult who is from the same cultural group as the patient,” Dr. Weisner said. “It is a step forward that involves more than language. There are some exciting things people are developing for patient portals on prevention, such as treatment modules presented by virtual people that can be matched to the age, gender, or ethnicity of the patient.”

Other speakers at the session are Kamilla Venner, PhD, Assistant Professor at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, and Denis Antoine II, MD, Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore. Dr. Venner will discuss best approaches to adapting evidence-based treatments in American Indian/Alaska Native populations. Highlights of her presentation will include the importance of acculturation, spirituality, and cultural values in developing treatments that are appropriate for use in these communities. Dr. Antoine will provide an overview of the socio-political landscape that has impacted substance abuse treatment in the African-American community and highlight culturally relevant barriers to treatment access. He also will emphasize the importance of staff diversity and maintenance of cultural competence through regular training and program evaluation.