The purpose of outpatient services is to help individuals achieve permanent changes in their alcohol and drug-using behavior. These services are non-residential, can be provided in a variety of settings, and are appropriate for both adults and adolescents.

Some of the criteria used to determine whether persons are appropriate for outpatient services generally include the following:

  • patient has no signs or symptoms of withdrawal, or withdrawal needs can be safely managed in an outpatient setting
  • any biomedical conditions and problems, if present, are sufficiently stable to permit participation in outpatient treatment
  • patient's mental status does not interfere or inhibit his / her ability to understand the information presented and participate in treatment planning and the treatment process
  • patient expresses a willingness to participate in treatment and acknowledges that he/she has a substance-related problem and wants help to change. On the other hand, the patient might be ambivalent about the substance abuse problem and requires monitoring and motivating strategies or might not recognize that he/she has a substance-related problem but is invested in avoiding a negative consequence.
  • patient is able to achieve or maintain abstinence and recovery goals, or to achieve awareness of a substance problem only with support and scheduled therapeutic contact to assist in dealing with identified issues
  • the patient's significant others, work environment, legal representatives are supportive of the recovery effort, adequate transportation is available, meeting locations are near the home environment and accessible

Generally, outpatient services address major lifestyle, attitudinal, and behavioral issues that have the potential to undermine the goals of treatment or inhibit the individual's ability to cope with major life tasks without the non-medical use of alcohol or other drugs. Some of thee issues might include, but are not limited to, preoccupation with alcohol or other drug use, craving for the drug, and peer pressure. The services include face-to-face individual, group, and family counseling, and may include medication maintenance, such as methadone for heroin users. These services are performed on a regular schedule that averages less than nine hours a week.

Substance abuse treatment services and this outpatient component are delivered by community-based agencies who are under contract to DHS/Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. Generally, these services are available locally in communities throughout the state. This system enables clients to be assessed and treated as close to their home communities as possible, allows communities to take ownership of their programs, and facilitates public information. Treatment services are delivered through a continuum approach, with individual clients moving from one level of care to another based on their assessed needs.

In the DHS/OASA substance abuse treatment system in FY2001, a total of 53,375 outpatient services were provided to 45,715 individuals. This number includes 40,485 persons who were more than 17 years of age, 5,218 persons who were between ages 12 and 17, and 72 persons who were less than 12 years of age.