Does distance affect utilization of substance abuse and mental health services in the presence of transportation services?
Long travel times have been identified as a significant barrier to accessing mental health and other critical services. This study examines whether distance to treatment was a barrier to receiving outpatient mental health and substance abuse care for HIV-positive persons when transportation was provided. Data from a cohort of HIV-positive persons who participated in a year-long substance abuse and mental health treatment programme were examined longitudinally. Transportation, which included buses, taxis, and mileage reimbursement for private transportation, was provided free of charge for participants who needed this assistance. Nearly three-quarters (74%) of participants utilized the transportation services. No statistically significant differences in retention in, or utilization of, the mental health and substance abuse treatment programme were identified by distance to the treatment site. This analysis demonstrated that increased distance to care did not decrease utilization of the treatment programme when transportation was provided to the client when necessary. These results provide preliminary evidence that distance to substance abuse and mental health services need not be a barrier to care for HIV-positive individuals when transportation is provided. Such options may need to be considered when trying to treat geographically dispersed individuals so that efficiencies in treatment can be attained.
Whetten, R; Whetten, K; Pence, BW; Reif, S; Conover, C; Bouis, S
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