UofSC researcher to improve Medicaid-covered alcohol use disorder treatment

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Columbia, SC — Christina Andrews, associate professor of health services policy and management at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health and an expert on addiction treatment will lead a study funded by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to examine the effectiveness of Medicaid-covered alcohol use disorder treatment.

Andrews and co-principal investigator Amanda Abraham, an associate professor of public administration and policy at the University of Georgia, will use a $2.5 million, four-year R01 grant to conduct their research.

“The United States continues to grapple with rising alcohol-related hospitalization and mortality,” Andrews says. “Expanding access to alcohol use disorder treatment is an urgent public health priority.”

Medicaid is intended to increase access and reduce mortality among vulnerable populations; however, many state-level programs do not cover all the needed treatments for alcohol use disorder and have policies that restrict access. Further, most Medicaid programs contract with managed care organizations. Despite this prevalence of partnerships, little is known about the content, implementation and outcomes of the specific, varied plans that are offered.

With this study, which is the first of its kind, Andrews and her team will investigate the effects of these programs on access to alcohol use disorder treatment as well as adverse outcomes for the participants (e.g., emergency department visits, hospitalizations, mortality). The project will encompass 142 different Medicaid-contracted managed care organization plans across 18 states and the full continuum of treatment.

“This research will provide tangible guidance to states and Medicaid managed care organization plans,” Andrews says. “Specifically, it will help us better understand how to best structure coverage and utilization management parameters to ensure appropriate and efficient access to alcohol use disorder treatment.”

Andrews joined the UofSC Arnold School of Public Health in 2020 after spending eight years as a faculty member in the university’s College of Social Work. Her work focuses on addiction treatment, particularly in response to the opioid epidemic and alcohol use disorders. She is currently a co-investigator on two other projects (i.e., financing for opioid use disorder treatment within the criminal justice system; Medicaid care plan coverage for opioid use disorder medications) that are funded with $19 million from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Andrews has a bachelor’s degree in sociology (Ithaca College in New York), a Master of Social Work (Boston University) and a Ph.D. in Social Service Administration (University of Chicago).

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About the University of South Carolina

The University of South Carolina is a globally recognized, high-impact research university committed to a superior student experience and dedicated to innovation in learning, research and community engagement. Founded in 1801, the university offers more than 350 degree programs and is the state’s only top-tier Carnegie Foundation research institution. More than 50,000 students are enrolled at one of 20 locations throughout the state, including the research campus in Columbia. With 56 nationally ranked academic programs including top-ranked programs in international business, the nation’s best honors college and distinguished programs in engineering, law, medicine, public health and the arts, the university is helping to build healthier, more educated communities in South Carolina and around the world.

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