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Publication: Ph.D. Student Kate Roberts and Professor of Social Work Cindy Sousa

November 13, 2023

Centering Persons Who Use Drugs: Addressing Social Determinants of Health Among Patients Hospitalized With Substance Use Disorders

Authors: Roberts, Kate; Smith, Emily; Sousa, Cindy; Young, J Elaina; Corley, Anna Grace; Szczotka, Darin; Sepanski, Abby; Hartoch, Ashley 

Source: Social Work in Health Care, 2023 Nov 6, pages 1-16,  doi: 10.1080/00981389.2023.2278777

Publication type: Journal article

Abstract: Social workers have emerged as leaders within Addiction Consult Services (ACS) due to their ability to provide a wide range of services, from crisis work and brief therapeutic interventions to connecting patients to community resources. Many hospitals have implemented ACS to address the overdose crisis and the sharp rise in drug use-related infections, including skin and soft tissue infections, osteomyelitis, and endocarditis; a result of unaddressed systemic social determinants of health (SDOH). Yet, despite social workers being at the forefront of inpatient substance use work, little guidance exists regarding social work's role in leading person-centered addiction care and addressing SDOH in the hospital setting. The authors of this paper are licensed clinical social workers who have worked across five different health systems, engaging persons who use drugs (PWUD) in the context of an ACS. This paper examines five practice interventions of social work practice within hospitals that represent key points for innovation. Drawing on social work's unique commitments to social justice, strengths, and person-in-environment, these interventions operate within eco-social approaches to help us grapple more effectively with ways that health - and disease - are socially and economically produced by multiple interacting factors. We provide a clinical roadmap of interventions for social workers in hospital settings with PWUD to demonstrate how social work leadership within inpatient care models can help us better address the impacts of various intersecting SDOH on the care of PWUD.