Hospitalizations are an important opportunity to address substance use through inpatient services, outpatient care, and community partnerships, yet the extent to which nonprofit hospitals prioritize such services across time remains unknown. The objective of this study is to examine trends in nonprofit hospitals’ prioritization and implementation of substance use disorder (SUD) programs.
We assessed trends in hospital prioritization of substance use as a top five community need and hospital implementation of SUD programing at nonprofit hospitals between 2015 and 2021 using two waves (wave 1: 2015–2018; wave 2: 2019–2021) by examining hospital community benefit reports. We utilized t or χ2 tests to understand whether there were significant differences in the prioritization and implementation of SUD programs across waves. We used multilevel logistic regression to evaluate the relation between prioritization and implementation of SUD programs, hospital and community characteristics, and wave.
Hospitals were less likely to have prioritized SUD but more likely to have implemented SUD programs in the most recent 3 years compared, even after adjusting for the local overdose rate and hospital- and community-level variables. Although most hospitals consistently prioritized and implemented SUD programs during the 2015–2021 period, a 11% removed and 15% never adopted SUD programs at all, despite an overall increase in overdose rates.
Our study identified gaps in hospital SUD infrastructure during a time of elevated need. Failing to address this gap reflects missed opportunities to engage vulnerable populations, provide linkages to treatment, and prevent complications of substance use.