Changes to Allow More Choice for Those Getting Treatment

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Drug and alcohol addictions are life-altering conditions with severe ramifications. With over half a million Minnesotans battling a substance use disorder, timely access to effective treatment remains crucial.

In 2021, less than half the people in the state with a substance use disorder received treatment. Reasons for not getting treatment vary from person to person, but one of the key determinants is access. The process for securing quality care can be challenging depending on an individual’s financial situation. Fortunately, a novel approach to treatment access is being implemented across Minnesota to help people navigate a path to recovery.

Direct Access is a health care model that grants individuals with a substance use disorder full autonomy by allowing them to choose their service provider. Previously, when an individual was seeking care but did not have funds to cover the cost, they would need to get an assessment from a county or tribe. Assessment results were then used to select treatment duration and place individuals with treatment providers. But now, through Direct Access, people can go directly to the provider of their choice to get a comprehensive assessment, talk with the provider about their recommendations and choose the level of care that best meets their needs. This new process empowers the individual by emphasizing a person-centered approach.

This new process empowers the individual by emphasizing a person-centered approach.On July 1, Direct Access became the sole process for getting publicly funded substance use disorder treatment in Minnesota. Direct Access is a collaborative effort, and the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) has partnered with individuals, tribes, counties, providers, and other organizations to develop this new model of person-centered care. DHS also supports culturally specific Direct Access programs, which link BIPOC and members of the LGBTQIA+ community with service providers and professionals who share their identities.

This shift marks a milestone in the state’s substance use disorder treatment history. By returning the power of choice to the individual, they can make decisions best suited for their unique needs. Direct Access acknowledges a person’s personhood. It gives them the confidence that they can be the ones to write their own success story.

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An additional benefit of implementing this model of treatment is reduced paperwork and wait times. Previous models presented barriers by extending the treatment-approval process. Research indicates that roadblocks in accessing treatment are likely to deter an individual from seeking it altogether. Through Direct Access, the process is streamlined, and people can directly enter treatment after an assessment from a provider of their choice. By removing lengthy processes and procedures, we can accelerate a person’s recovery journey.

No treatment model is a magic bullet, but Direct Access will yield positive outcomes as more people begin to seek care who otherwise would not have. By continuing to develop this model, we invest in peoples’ futures by prioritizing a value that we often take for granted: Self-governance.


Neerja Singh is the clinical director of the Behavioral Health, Housing and Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Administration at the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

Last Updated on July 13, 2022

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