Bilingual Addiction Treatment

Last year, Barbara Woods got a call from an airline EAP official who had done extensive business with Woods employer, Valley Hope Association, which is among the nation largest addiction treatment providers. What they wanted to know was whether we had any idea where the airline might turn to when they needed bilingual addiction treatment services, and whether Valley Hope itself offered such services, says Woods, marketing director at the non-profit, which has operations in seven states. After some searching, Woods found out that bilingual offerings from private providers were slim to none, and she was at a loss to provide her airline EAP client with an appropriate recommendation. Even though Hispanics are by far the fastest growing major ethnic demographic in the country, the private side of the treatment business has been slow to ramp up services to the Spanish speaking, perhaps because those Hispanics that do require bilingual care often do not represent an attractive demographic from an income standpoint, with clients therefore often unable to afford the private pay offerings that are increasingly in vogue on the private side of the treatment business. And while public providers report growing demand for services, public bilingual programs often come and go, subject as they are to public funding vagaries. That’s what we’ve seen here in Houston, says George Joseph, CEO of The Right Step, which is among the leaders nationwide in delivering affordable treatment, with operations in Texas, Louisiana and New Mexico. The Right Step recently opened an outpatient bilingual center in its Houston home market, according to Joseph. In order to make this work, we decided we had to have a more varied payor mix than is usually the case for us, he said. With the vast majority of its revenues coming from insurance payors, who like Joseph’s low cost, high quality model of care, The Right Step is taking public funding as part of the new bilingual offering. We felt we had to do this to make it work, says Joseph. We think that if we have a broad mix of public, commercial payor and private pay funding, that our bilingual program will be one that lasts.