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SAMHSA News - September/October 2006, Volume 14, Number 5

Series on Co-Occurring Disorders Available

Co-occurring substance abuse and mental disorders affect approximately 4.6 million people in the United States. However, only a small percentage of these people receive treatment that addresses both disorders, and many do not receive treatment of any kind.

To better educate states, communities, and behavioral health care providers, SAMHSA’s Co-Occurring Center for Excellence (COCE) recently released the first 3 in a series of 10 overview papers for treatment professionals on co-occurring substance abuse and mental disorders.


"These overview papers on co-occurring disorders break new ground. They help create a common language and a common understanding of co-occurring disorders for both mental health and substance abuse providers."

—Lawrence Rickards, Ph.D.   
Chief, Homeless Programs Branch   
SAMHSA's Center for Mental Health Services   


Concise and easy to read, these three COCE overview papers are introductions to the latest information on this issue. Following is a synopsis of each COCE overview paper:

Cover of Definitions and Terms Relating to Co-Occurring Disorders - click to view cover1. Definitions and Terms Relating to Co-Occurring Disorders. To avoid confusion in terminology and to provide a starting point for dialogue among service providers, administrators, financing agencies, and policymakers, this overview paper compiles definitions consistent with state-of-the-art science and treatment practices relating to co-occurring disorders (COD).

2. Screening, Assessment, and Treatment Planning for Persons with Co-Occurring Disorders. Clients with COD are best served through an integrated screening, assessment, and treatment planning process that addresses both substance use and mental disorders, each in the context of the other. This overview paper discusses the purpose, appropriate staffing, protocols, methods, advantages and disadvantages, and processes for integrated screening, assessment, and treatment planning for persons with COD as well as systems issues and financing.

3. Overarching Principles To Address the Needs of Persons with Co-Occurring Disorders. This overview paper outlines 12 basic principles for working with persons with COD. These principles are intended to guide—but not define—systemic and clinical responses. There are two sets of principles—one for systems of care and another for individual providers. They can be used as benchmarks to assess whether plans or programs are consistent with the best information in the field.

The overview papers span topics such as epidemiology, treatment, workforce and systems issues, prevention and early intervention, and evaluation and monitoring. Intended audiences include mental health and substance abuse treatment providers and policymakers at state and local levels, as well as their counterparts in American Indian tribes.

SAMHSA developed these materials following the November 2002 release of the Report to Congress on the Prevention and Treatment of Co-Occurring Substance Abuse Disorders and Mental Disorders.

Co-occurring disorders are more common than most professional counselors, medical personnel, or the general public realize. The significant effects of untreated COD—homelessness, unemployment, incarceration, physical health problems, separation from family and friends, and often suicide—led SAMHSA not only to establish COCE, but also to create a broad range of grant programs, policy academies, and training opportunities. SAMHSA also developed a Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP)—Substance Abuse Treatment for Persons with Co-Occurring Disorders (TIP 42).

As a result, the diagnosis and treatment of COD are now better defined, and treatment is becoming more integrated.

These free overview papers can be ordered by calling SAMHSA’s National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information at 1 (800) 729-6686 (English and Spanish) or 1 (866) 889-2647 (TTY).

COCE - SAMHSA's Co-Occurring Center for Excellence - click to viewFor more information about the Co-Occurring Center for Excellence, visit www.coce.samhsa.govEnd of Article

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SAMHSA News - September/October 2006, Volume 14, Number 5