Friday, 05 February 2010 15:53

Dual Diagnosis Licensing: The Next Wave Of Complete Mental Health And Addiction Treatment

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At least half of the 2 million Americans with severe mental illness also abuse illicit drugs or alcohol, compared to 15 percent of the general population, according to the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration. Unfortunately the vast majority of treatment centers are unable to treat both the disorder and the addiction, critically reducing the effectiveness of rehabilitation, which leaves patients vulnerable to relapse. Given May is Mental Health and Awareness Month, Jacqueline Dawes, owner and founder of Brookhaven Retreat, a multidisciplinary treatment facility, is working to shed light on the need for dual diagnosis licensing.

"People suffering from a mental health issue as well as a substance abuse problem cannot be treated in a facility that is not equipped to deal with both issues at the same time," said Dawes. "Often times, one disorder is acting as a shield for another. Without complete treatment of both issues simultaneously, the patient cannot recover. It is that simple."

A hurdle to effectively addressing the nation's growing substance abuse problem is in licensing treatment providers. Most states currently designate each bed for a specific purpose, either substance abuse or mental health. According to Dawes, a true dual-diagnosis license is needed nationally so that both issues can be treated concurrently, accurately and effectively.

As the first dual-diagnosis facility in Tennessee, Dawes is urging state legislators to change their treatment center laws and regulations so providers may be licensed to offer substance abuse and mental health services at the same time, in the same location. Leaders in the industry agree that the issues of substance abuse and mental health have been falsely deemed to be two separate and distinct issues, divided by policy, protocol and regulations. In order to achieve better results and provide better care to Americans suffering from addiction and mental illness, dual diagnosis must be made more available to treatment centers and widely incorporated into diagnosis programs.

"I am confident that without the dual diagnosis license waiver that was awarded to Brookhaven Retreat, I would not be able to see the amount of success I have seen from my patients. I can delve deeper and treat each patient more comprehensively," said Dawes.

As an industry leader, Dawes is now supported by new research studies that are beginning to help identify the need for facilities that are licensed to treat more than one aspect of mental health and addiction. The National Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University is surveying alumni from Brookhaven Retreat to document her results and examine why the program has such a high success rate.

People who are diagnosed with primarily substance abuse are often directed to a treatment center that provides therapy for that specific, isolated issue. The downfall of this methodology is that when a mental health issue is uncovered in the healing process, it can result in "the revolving door" of substance abuse treatment. People fail to get well in the facilities because the substance abuse is simply a numbing-out tool, covering up the deeply-rooted mental health issue that isn't being treated. Unfortunately, neglecting one issue, whether it is the addiction or the mental health issue, often leads to a damaging cycle of relapse.

For more information on Brookhaven Retreat and dual-diagnosis licensing, visit



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