Substance Use Disorder Workforce

ASPE Issue Brief
Publisher: Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, Office of Disability, Aging and Long-Term Care Policy
Jun 30, 2018
Ellen Bouchery and Judith Dey

Key Findings:

  • The SUD treatment workforce comprises counselors, medical professionals, and support staff.
  • The level of education among SUD treatment counseling staff varies widely.
  • Staff-to-client ratios vary greatly across facilities.
Many barriers to accessing evidence-based treatment for substance use disorder (SUD), particularly medication-assisted treatment, are related to the workforce. Barriers include workforce shortages for certain providers; insufficient training, education, and experience; lack of institutional and clinician peer support; provider stigma; and inadequate or burdensome reimbursement. Recognizing the importance of the SUD workforce in providing treatment, several questions were added to the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services in 2016. This issue brief presents key findings from the survey that identified the number of practitioners in the SUD workforce, their professional training and certification, and the ratios of professionals to clients in SUD treatment.