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Health Serv Res. 1995 December; 30(5): 707–726.
PMCID: PMC1070086

Expanding the frame of health services research in the drug abuse field.


OBJECTIVE. This article examines the distribution of heavy drug users across health and social service agencies in a community, and ways in which organizational and social policy factors influence pathways to services. DATA SOURCES/STUDY SETTING. Data are from the Community Epidemiology Laboratory, a project that includes comparable surveys of a wide variety of client, service provider, and general population groups in a single northern California county. STUDY DESIGN. The design is a cross-sectional analysis of patterns of service use and referral by heavy drug users distributed across a variety of service settings and in the general population. DATA COLLECTION. In-person, structured interviews by trained interviewers were conducted using comparable instruments, measures, sampling strategies, and fieldwork procedures. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS. The specialty drug treatment system serves only a small proportion of heavy drug users in the community. Large proportions of drug users are found in criminal justice, primary health, and welfare agencies. Patterns of service encounter and referral suggest that drug treatment clients typically have been in jail or on welfare prior to attending treatment, and are far less likely to have been referred to or from treatment by health providers. CONCLUSIONS. Health services research on drug abuse should expand its frame of reference to include services outside the specialty treatment sector. Drug treatment facilities are somewhat remote from other agencies in community service networks and are organizationally dependent on criminal justice and welfare systems. Further research should investigate both the costs and benefits of screening and providing services at earlier points of institutional involvement with drug abusers and the implications of interorganizational dependencies among criminal justice, welfare, and drug agencies for providers and clients.

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Selected References

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