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Competency 4: Prevention

Training Primary Care and Other Helping Professionals

Women use health services to a greater extent than men. Women with substance use problems often make initial contact with services other than specialized substance abuse treatment services. They may:

  • Visit their doctor or other primary health care worker for routine health care
  • Seek counseling for family or mental health problems
  • Seek specialized medical services such as prenatal care
  • Come to the attention of child welfare authorities or the criminal justice system
Group of health care workers

Training staff in these settings to routinely screen for alcohol and other substance use problems and refer or briefly intervene when problems are identified can improve outcomes, particularly with early intervention.

Training should address knowledge, skills, and attitudes about women with alcohol and other substance use problems and the effectiveness of treatment. A survey of women in treatment found that most (74 percent) believed it was appropriate for doctors and other health workers to routinely ask their clients about their use of alcohol and other drugs and to offer advice and support.17

People with alcohol use problems often have an array of needs that cannot be addressed by a single service. For women, coordination and collaboration between alcohol abuse treatment services and other services are crucial. Services may include prenatal and obstetric/gynecological services, child welfare services, crisis services such as women’s shelters, and mental health services. In addition, different services will be required at different phases of the client’s alcohol abuse treatment. For example, during aftercare, employment and housing services are important.

Providing training is one approach to networking and linking. Training can be reinforced by other activities such as:

  • Collaboration between sectors to develop best practice models for addressing dual problems (e.g., women with substance problems who have experienced violence)
  • Shared or cross-training between sectors (e.g., HIV/AIDS treatment services and substance abuse treatment services)
  • Substance abuse treatment staff assigned to work from a health or social service agency or vice versa
  • Visits to primary care or other service providers to explain the needs and services required by women receiving substance abuse treatment services
  • Partnership agreements between services that have mutual clients

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