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J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2012 May;73(3):413-22.

Advancing recovery: implementing evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders at the systems level.

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  • 1School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA.



A multisite evaluation examined the process and outcomes of Advancing Recovery, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation initiative to overcome barriers to implementing evidence-based treatments within alcohol and drug treatment systems.


We report findings from a 3-year, mixed-method study of how treatment systems promoted two evidence-based practices: medication-assisted treatment and continuing care management. We compared outcomes and implementation strategies across 12 state/county agencies responsible for alcohol and drug treatment and their selected treatment centers. Each partnership received 2 years of financial and technical support to increase adoption of evidence-based treatments.


Partnerships flexibly applied the Advancing Recovery model to promote the adoption of evidence-based treatments. Most sites achieved a measurable increase in the numbers of patients served with evidence-based practices, up from a baseline of virtually no use. Rates of adopting medication-based treatments were higher than those for continuing care management. Partnerships used a menu of top-down and bottom-up strategies that varied in specifics across sites but shared a general process of incremental testing and piecemeal adaptation.


Supported partnerships between providers and policymakers can achieve wider adoption of evidence-based treatment practices. Systems change unfolds through a trial-and-error process of adaptation and political learning that is unique to each treatment system. This leads to considerable state and local variation in implementation strategies and outcomes.

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