Continuing Care Models
Continuing care involves a support plan following treatment for substance use disorder (SUD). This model
addresses the chronic nature of SUDs by emphasizing long-term outcomes of treatment and recovery.
Similar to other chronic diseases, SUD requires continuing care and follow-up. The goal of a
continuing care model is to focus on the successes made during the initial phase of care — for
example, through inpatient and residential care programs — by providing follow-up care throughout
recovery. The continuing care model focuses on active and ongoing care management.
While there is no standard type, frequency, or length of continuing
care, this model may
involve outpatient services provided on a weekly basis for a few months up to one or two years.
A publication in the Journal
of Substance Abuse Treatment identified four components of effective continuing care
Extended monitoring – The “gold standard” in effective extended
testing via the collection of biological data, particularly urine samples.
Performance-based incentives – Incentives for drug-free biological samples have
been shown to produce better results for abstinence among individuals with an SUD.
Alternative forms of service delivery – Interventions that require frequent,
in-person check-ins can be burdensome for some patients. Programs may consider home visits,
telephone-based care, and web-based interventions as alternatives.
Community support – People in recovery need support from friends, family members,
Examples of Continuing Care Programs
Discovery Place in Burns, Tennessee
offers a long-term continuing care program to patients who have completed a 30 day residential
treatment program. The long-term program consists of 12-step recovery meetings, workshops, and
instruction on cultivating a healthy lifestyle.
- The Hazelden
MORE (My Ongoing Recovery Experience) program is an
online, computerized recovery program developed for patients who have recently completed the
residential treatment program for SUD. In addition to the computerized modules, patients have access
to a recovery coach as well as a licensed counselor.
Considerations for Implementation
One study identified characteristics
of continuing care models that are likely to be most effective, including interventions with a
longer duration and interventions that make "active and direct attempts to bring the treatment to the
patient." The study also suggested that additional research is needed to identify continuing care
interventions that are cost-effective, encourage participation, and are appropriate for people with
different types of SUDs.
Resources to Learn More
Continuing Care Research: What We've
Learned and Where We're Going
Reviews the literature on continuing care interventions for drug addiction treatment implemented in
the past two decades.
Author(s): McKay, J.
Citation: Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 36(2), 131-145
Forward to Measuring Continuing Care Management for Substance Use Disorders: Patient-Focused Episodes
Discusses the goals of and the challenges to providing continuing care management for SUD and
suggests methods for evaluating the efficiency and quality of continuing care management.
Author(s): Rosen, A. & McKay, J.
Recovery and Recovery Support
Provides information about recovery-oriented care and recovery support systems to help individuals
with substance use and mental health disorders manage and overcome their disease.
Organization: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration