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Special Services for Women in Substance Use Disorders Treatment: How Does the Department of Veterans Affairs Compare with Other Providers?

Heslin KC, Gable A, Dobalian A. Womens Health Issues. 2015 Nov-Dec;25(6):666-72. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2015.07.005. Epub 2015 Aug 29.

BACKGROUND: Gender is an important consideration in the treatment of substance use disorders (SUD). Although the number of women seeking care through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has increased dramatically, little is known about the capacity of the VA to meet the needs of women with SUD. We examined the prevalence of programs and key services for women in VA facilities in a survey of 14,311 SUD treatment facilities.

METHODS: Using data from the 2012 National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services, we calculated the percent of VA facilities offering special programs or groups exclusively for women, compared with facilities under other types of ownership. For each ownership type, we also calculated the mean number of ancillary services offered that are critical for many women in SUD treatment, including child care, domestic violence counseling, and transportation assistance. Multivariable models were used to adjust for differences in other facility characteristics.

FINDINGS: Approximately 31% of facilities had special programs exclusively for women. The VA had the lowest prevalence of programs for women, at 19.1%; however, the VA offered an average of 5 key services for women, which was significantly higher than the averages for other federal (n = 2), local (n = 4), and private for-profit (n = 2) facilities. Results were generally robust to multivariable adjustments.

CONCLUSIONS: The VA should consider developing more SUD programs and groups exclusively for women, while maintaining ancillary services at their relatively abundant level. Gender-specific programs and groups could serve as points of referral to ancillary services for women veterans.