How the Intake Admissions Process Works
In 2014, more than 1.5 million people (aged 12 and older) were admitted into a public substance abuse treatment program in the United States, according to data collected by the Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS).
Addiction is a complex and chronic disease, and due to its highly individual nature, there are many different forms of treatment available.
The first step toward recovery is often agreeing to get help in the form of a formal addiction treatment program. Understanding how intake admissions works can help to shed light on the process and make the process of entering into a program smoother, minimizing any potential fear of the unknown.
Step 1: Initial Phone Call
Treatment facilities typically have trained professionals manning the phones 24 hours a day to help families and loved ones get the help they need. These treatment consultants provide help every step of the way from the initial call to admission.
This initial phone call can help to answer questions on how the process works and what types of treatments are offered, provide insight into the financial commitment, and basically get the ball rolling. General information is often obtained during this call; financial arrangements for payment may be made; and an intake interview is scheduled. The pre-assessment call typically takes about 15-30 minutes.
Treatment consultants can then help to set up the admission process, even assisting with travel arrangements when needed.
Step 2: Financial Agreement
Before entering into a treatment program, individuals and families will set up a financial plan for covering the cost. Individuals should check with their employer and insurance companies to determine what may be covered. Treatment consultants can help with this too.
A referral from a primary care provider may be a requirement before being admitted into a treatment program in order for insurance to help defray the costs. Treatment facilities have specialized staff to help families set up payment plans and understand the financial commitments required.
Loans may even be available, and individuals demonstrating significant financial need are often able to obtain treatment for little or no cost in public or state-run facilities. While the cost of addiction treatment may seem daunting at first, NIDA reports that in the long run, the cost of treatment can save people as much $12 for every $1 spent when legal, criminal justice, and healthcare costs of continued addiction are taken into account. Once the logistics and financial agreements are completed, families can focus on the addiction treatment program and recovery.
Step 3: Intake Interview and Assessments
During the intake interview, individuals are asked many questions about their substance abuse patterns, drugs of choice, amount of use, length of time using, when abuse started and why, etc. It is important to be open and honest during this process as treatment plans often depend on specific drugs used and the level of drug dependency present. While the questions may be personal in nature and difficult to answer, it is in everyone’s best interest to be as thorough and transparent as possible.
It is also important to remember that this interview is a two-way street. Not only is the intake counselor finding out information to provide better service, families and loved ones are encouraged to ask questions as well to determine if the treatment options provided will be the right fit. Things like cost, payment options, whether or not they accept insurance, location of the facility, treatment options and amenities provided, credentials and accreditations of both the facility and staff, and layout of the facility may be important things to consider when selecting an addiction treatment program.
Step 4: Medical, Mental Health, and Treatment History
A complete medical and mental health history is an integral part of ensuring that the treatment plan is ideal for each individual. Medical records may be requested at this point. Physical exams, diagnostic testing, and a drug screening may be performed as well. Clients are often screened for sexually transmitted diseases and other underlying medical conditions, and a pregnancy test is often performed for females. These tests are to ensure that the treatment and care plan fits the person’s needs and will manage potential complications.
Mental health history and psychological testing may also be done during the initial intake assessment. Co-occurring disorders are common, as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) publishes that in 2014 nearly 8 million American adults suffered from both a mental illness and addiction at the same time. Co-occurring disorders are optimally treated in an integrated and simultaneous fashion, so it is important for treatment providers to be aware of any and all disorders present in order to frame the best possible care plan. Any prior addiction treatment, be it outpatient services, detox, or a residential program, is important to disclose during intake as well, as it can help treatment providers to individualize care.
Step 5: Treatment Plan Design
Medical, mental health, and substance abuse treatment providers work closely with families and individuals to design a treatment plan that is optimal for all parties. Treatment can take many forms and may include:
- Detox services
- Outpatient programs
- Intensive outpatient programs
- Residential programs
- Transitional programs
- Aftercare services
If an individual still has drugs and/or alcohol in their system at intake, detox will often be the initial stage of treatment. Medical detox uses both supportive and pharmacological tools to manage withdrawal symptoms that can manifest during drug withdrawal. Detox generally lasts about 3-7 days on average. After detox, individuals can slide right into a residential (or outpatient) treatment program that will then provide therapies, counseling, support groups, complementary medical techniques, and more depending on each person’s specific needs and circumstances. Regardless of the type of treatment selected, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) publishes that programs should last at least 90 days.
Step 6: Entrance into the Addiction Treatment Program
Families and individuals will often be designated a care coordinator who acts as a kind of mediator between the treatment team, families, and the client. After finances and logistics are handled, families and clients are introduced to their care coordinator and given an overview of the treatment plan as well as the opportunity to ask any additional questions. Clients may then receive a tour of the facility, learn the daily schedule, and be assigned a room. They are given an orientation packet, welcome information, and a personalized and detailed daily schedule. There may be some additional paperwork to fill out at this point.
Families are often given information on the history and mission statement of the facility, and individuals are then checked in with a counselor. The counselor will take the client to their room, go through their packed bag together, and introduce them to their roommate (if there is one). Often, outside communication is discouraged during treatment, and cellphones, computers, tablets, and the like may be held by treatment staff. Families will be counseled on what to expect and given information on how to support their loved one as well as information on visiting times, etc.