Treatment provided to all women or all men in a group together would be considered gender specific treatment. The advantage of this type of treatment is that within each group, members can discuss issues that are important to them without worrying about the reactions of people of another gender. An all-women group would typically discuss issues specific to women, such as gender-specific trauma, motherhood, pregnancy, women’s health issues and safer sex practices. A mixed gender group would not usually focus on those specific issues but might touch on them in a general way.
Gender-responsive treatment goes one step further and includes topic areas specific to women in a way that provides a response to those issues. For example, rather than simply discussing women’s health issues in an all-women group, the program itself would handle the topic in a more extensive way, providing solutions to problems and skill building exercises to empower participants to take charge of their own health. In this way, the program would respond to women’s health issues rather than simply to acknowledge them or even ignore them if group participants did not bring them up.
In the case of pregnancy and substance use disorder treatment, a gender responsive program would address concerns regarding a safe pregnancy, would help participants to access prenatal and other primary health care if needed, would address parenting concerns, a birth plan and labor and delivery. The program would also be supportive and non-judgmental, understanding that participants are struggling with a medical condition while pregnant, and would help them find the best way to stay safe and healthy for the remainder of your pregnancy.
In a gender-specific facility, the treatment environment would be all women. In the case of gender specific groups in a co-ed facility, participants would be in groups with women only, but participants may see and interact with men during meals, recreation and free time. Some treatment groups may have some male participants, depending upon the topic of the group.
Not by hours or by days, but with patience and persistence addiction treatment providers can establish successful connections with medical professionals in their own community. It certainly wasn’t an overnight process for North Range Behavioral Health. Michelle Steinmetz, a Behavioral Health Therapist at North Range says the organization sought out a relationship with her local medical center because it made sense.
“They were already looking at mental health. They were always referring out and their care is about treating the whole person.” Steinmetz says over time, meetings and calls between addiction treatment professionals at North Range and physicians at the center turned into a complimentary working relationship. It allowed both sides to navigate the sometimes slow and arduous process of booking patients’ appointments and treating their health issues. “Their patients get help, and on our end, patients slide right in to the schedule.”
Both health providers have a system in place that alerts the other if a client is identified. Steinmetz says the center will call North Range if someone is in need of help. “They’ll say, hey touch base with this client because of substance use disorder.” The give and take between the two health organizations is important. Steinmetz estimates that in the communities North Range serves, 70% to 80% of patients are seen by people at the addiction treatment provider and the medical center. Physicians there are critically important to North Range clients, giving them prenatal care, well checks, and sometimes “bridging” or writing prescriptions until they can be seen by North Range mental health staff.
Although the process of treating addiction has become more streamlined in Weld County, Steinmetz says if problems arise, everyone does their best to focus on the patients. If patients need to switch their physician, North Range staff will assist in that transition. The key to success has been establishing trust with each other as health care advocates. “Everybody talks to each other,” Steinmetz says. “That’s important. No one needs to fall through the cracks.”