Empathy and connection are at the heart of addiction treatment and recovery. But for too many people, language is a barrier to receiving effective care.
Launching this winter in Minnesota, a specialized Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) will offer the fullness of Hazelden Betty Ford's treatment services to people whose sole or primary language is Spanish. Along with core treatment components including one-to-one counseling, group therapy and educational sessions, the Spanish IOP curriculum will incorporate culturally responsive elements to best meet the needs of Latinx and Hispanic patients.
Al Updike, former outpatient program director at Hazelden Betty Ford in Maple Grove and Chaska, Minnesota, has been instrumental in developing the program with interdisciplinary teams of colleagues across the organization. Not only will the program be facilitated in Spanish, but all support resources (such as website content) will be translated into Spanish.
Although Updike is bilingual, he evaluated the accessibility of Hazelden Betty Ford's services from the perspective of those whose sole language is Spanish. That involved interpreting, translating and revising messaging and materials at all potential points of access, from the initial inquiry phone call a person makes, to the pre-entry process, to release-of-information forms and other documents required in the admissions process.
"In order to participate in a bilingual program, people need to know English. That precludes care for many in the Latinx community," explains Updike. "Our commitment is to ensure that people who only speak Spanish are able to access and participate in all that we offer—and not feel like outsiders or 'less-than' in doing so."
The IOP level of care was intentionally selected for the Spanish pilot program because the format allows patients to have one foot in treatment and one foot in the real world, Updike adds. "People can continue to work, go to school, volunteer, and tend to family and household responsibilities while engaging in treatment."
Hazelden Betty Ford clinicians also evaluated treatment topics and focus through a cultural lens, resulting in the addition of several Spanish IOP-specific components. For example, mental health programming will address the effects of systemic trauma as related to stress and anxiety around deportation and immigration status.
"We know that fear and anxiety can lead to substance use as a means of coping," says Updike. "By drawing that link for our patients and by creating a safe space to talk openly about their concerns, we can help to address issues that could otherwise become barriers to recovery."
Another culturally responsive care component involves greater emphasis on family dynamics and recovery. Spanish IOP patients will have the opportunity to bring a family member into one of the virtual group sessions to learn about the impact of addiction on relationships, healthy boundaries, communication and self-care.
Open to people 18 and older who live in Minnesota, Spanish IOP will be offered virtually as a 12-week curriculum, with sessions held four evenings per week to start. Based on reaching specific recovery milestones, patients will participate less frequently in weekly sessions as they become more adept at managing their recovery outside the structure and support of the treatment setting.
Depending on demand, a morning Spanish IOP track could be added. Development of a day-treatment level of care is also a possibility for the Spanish continuum. Following the Minnesota launch, plans call for expanding Spanish IOP to California, New York, Illinois, Florida and the Pacific Northwest.
The need is tremendous. Despite the fact that the United States has the second largest population of Spanish speakers in the world (Mexico has the largest), Spanish language, Twelve Step-focused outpatient treatment programs are almost nonexistent.
"Language has been a huge barrier for too many people who need our services," says Updike. "We know that addiction doesn't discriminate. Neither should recovery."