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Polaris, New Hope Foundation develop clinical tool to predict & improve engagement in substance abuse treatment

With funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Polaris Health Directions and the New Hope Foundation have designed the first clinical tool to predict and improve the rate of engagement for patients receiving treatment for substance abuse.

Patient engagement is critical to successful outcomes. Research shows that at least 50 percent of patients fail to engage in treatment for substance abuse, and drop out before completing their program. The development of a predictive model to identify patients at risk is a major advance in the field. Counselors can now be proactive in improving rates of treatment retention and patient recovery.

The predictive model was developed using Polaris assessments and treatment engagement data from more than 40,000 patients treated at New Hope and at Kaiser Permamente’s addiction medicine clinics in southern California.

Patients complete an assessment that collects information on addiction severity, family and social relationships, psychological functioning, medical history, employment and other factors predictive of risk for dropout and relapse. Based on the results, the system generates a counselor report that flags patients at high risk for non-engagement. The report also recommends treatment strategies, for example motivational interviewing or matching patients to services based on identified need, that help the counselor design a more effective course of patient care.

Through earlier identification of at-risk patients and better targeting of services, counselors can improve rates of treatment completion and post-treatment recovery. When patient recovery rates improve, the costs associated with relapse are also reduced.

The next phases of the project include designing and field-testing a motivational feedback report tailored specifically to a patient’s needs. The report will include personalized motivational messages targeted to a patient’s readiness for change. Research findings from the project will be the basis for a manual that will guide clinicians in choosing and implementing the evidence-based practices the clinical tool recommends.

For more information on this current project or the Polaris assessment system, please send an e-mail to or visit: Follow Polaris on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Visit New Hope Foundation on Facebook and Twitter at newhopefound.

NOTE: The project described was supported by Award Number 1R43DA032180 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute on Drug Abuse or the National Institutes of Health.