Workforce Diversity and disparities in wait time and retention among opioid treatment programs

Erick G. Guerrero, Yinfei Kong, Jemima A. Frimpong, Tenie Khachikian, Suojin Wang, Thomas D’Aunno, and Daniel L. Howard
BMC Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy

Background: Workforce diversity is a key strategy to improve treatment engagement among members of racial and ethnic minority groups. In this study, we seek to determine whether workforce diversity plays a role in reducing racial and ethnic differences in wait time to treatment entry and retention in different types of opioid use disorder treatment programs.

Methods: We conducted comparative and predictive analysis in a subsample of outpatient opioid treatment programs (OTPs), who completed access and retention survey questions in four waves of the National Drug Abuse Treatment System Survey (162 OTPs in 2000, 173 OTPs in 2005, 282 OTPs in 2014, and 300 OTPs in 2017). We sought to assess the associations between workforce diversity on wait time and retention, accounting for the role of Medicaid

expansion and the moderating role of program ownership type (i.e., public, non-profit, for-profit) among OTPs located across the United States.

Results: We found significant differences in wait time to treatment entry and retention in treatment across waves. Average number of waiting days decreased in 2014 and 2017; post Medicaid expansion per the Affordable Care Act, while retention rates varied across years. Key ifndings show that programs with high diversity, measured by higher percent of African American staff and a higher percent of African American clients, were associated with longer wait times to enter treatment, compared to low diversity programs. Programs with higher percent of Latino staff and a higher percent of Latino clients were associated with lower retention in treatment compared with low diversity programs. However, program ownership type (public, non-profit and for-profit) played a moderating role. Public programs with higher percent of African American staf were associated with lower wait time, while non-profit programs with higher percent of Latino staff were related to higher retention.

Conclusions: Findings show decreases in wait time over the years with significant variation in retention during the same period. Concordance in high workforce and client diversity was associated with higher wait time and lower retention. But these relations inverted (low wait time and high retention) in public and non-profit programs with high staff diversity. Findings have implications for building resources and service capacity among OTPs that serve a higher proportion of minority clients.

Wagner Faculty