Trying to get sober? Tool helps find good care

WASHINGTON (AP) — The phone calls come — from fellow scientists and desperate strangers — with a single question for the alcohol chief at the National Institutes of Health: Where can my loved one find good care to get sober?

The government has released a novel online tool to help — directories of alcohol treatment providers paired with key questions patients should ask for a better shot at high-quality care.

“Most people think treatment is detox for 28 days or Alcoholics Anonymous. There’s a vast in-between,” said George Koob, director of NIH’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

More than 15 million adults in the U.S. have what’s called alcohol use disorder, meaning they either misuse or are addicted to alcohol, and fewer than 10 percent get treatment, according to federal estimates.

Many who do get treated don’t receive quality care that best fits their needs, Koob said. He ordered development of the Alcohol Treatment Navigator after realizing if medical professionals were confused, families must be lost.

“It’s the hardest thing, navigating how do you find treatment,” agreed Linda Rosenberg, president of the nonprofit National Council for Behavioral Health. She wasn’t involved with the tool but praised NIAAA for developing it. “It’s desperately needed.”

The tool can’t solve issues of affordability or accessibility. Insurance coverage varies, and some parts of the country have shortages of providers that may leave patients traveling or turning to telemedicine, Rosenberg cautioned.

The Navigator offers a step-by-step guide to assessing additional options beyond the well-known AA and detox. First, it links to existing directories of thousands of board-certified addiction doctors or psychiatrists, accredited alcohol treatment centers and licensed therapists, searchable by ZIP code. Licensing and accreditation information mark an initial filter.

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