The District of Columbia Department of Behavioral Health (DBH)* conducted a free three-hour training entitled Introduction to Co-Occurring Disorder, Treatment Implications & DBH Services which this reviewer attended on October 17th, 2013. Although open to the general public, the majority of attendees were employees of DBH who needed to earn continuing education credits. The presenter, Angele Moss-Baker, MA, LPC, an accomplished facilitator and trainer, provided much useful knowledge about how drugs and mental illness can interact and mimic each other. She reminded us that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines co-occuring disorders as:
Individuals who have at least one mental disorder as well as an alcohol or drug use disorder. While these disorders may interact differently in any one person (e.g., an episode of depression may trigger a relapse into alcohol abuse, or cocaine use may exacerbate schizophrenic symptoms), at least one disorder of each type can be diagnosed independently of the other.
Moss-Baker noted that learning how to better address the needs of those with co-occurring disorders should be of primary importance to the behavioral health community because, according to recent SAMHSA estimates:
- Approximately 8.9 million adults have co-occurring disorders; that is, they have both a mental and substance disorder
- Only 7.4 percent if individuals receive treatment for both conditions with 55.8 percent receiving no treatment at all.
With greater efficiency and effectiveness in working together a priority, Moss-Baker facilitated a group discussion on the terminology used and concerns faced by those present representing the various departments and agencies. The training continued with a presentation on ongoing services, including mental health and substance use disorders, eligibility, referral processes, and concluded with a focus on the service enhancements now offered by the newly formed DBH department.
* It should be noted that in the fall of 2013 the District of Columbia merged its Department of Mental Health with the Addiction, Prevention and Recovery Administration (APRA) in order to form a new Department of Behavioral Health (DBH). One of the key goals of this merger is to develop a system of care where there are “no wrong doors” for accessing appropriate services. This change reflects one that many other agencies in the country are making or have made already. These mergers are a very positive step forward in the treatment of co-occurring disorder.
The District of Columbia Department of Behavioral Health Training Institute – register for this and other courses here
SAMHSA Co-Occuring Disorders webpage
National Addiction Technology Transfer Center’s Co-Occuring webpage
Simone Fary is the Instructional Design and Technology Specialist for the Danya Institute