Participating in a national research project may help two local treatment centers place substance abusers in programs more quickly and retain them longer.

Participating in a national research project may help two local treatment centers place substance abusers in programs more quickly and retain them longer.

OnTrack Inc. and Addictions Recovery Center (ARC) — both of Medford — are among 50 Oregon treatment providers selected to participate in the federally financed Network for the Improvement of Addiction Treatment, according to a news release from the state's Department of Human Services. DHS will manage the research, and Oregon Health & Science University will evaluate it.

Previous projects, which included centers in Portland and The Dalles, have resulted in more addicts admitted to treatment, reduction of no-show clients and decreased waiting times, DHS reported.

The outcomes indicate increased productivity from public treatment funds, the news release stated.

"This is the first time that we've been able to participate in a project that looks at our service delivery ... our customer service," said ARC operations director Ed Burns.

ARC employees more than a year ago identified issues that the research project targets, Burns said.

The study will give the nonprofit organization the technical assistance it needs to improve its program, he said.

Waiting times for entrance into ARC's outpatient treatment depends on the clients' ability to pay but ranges from five days to a month, Burns said. About 40 percent of clients scheduled for an initial assessment fail to keep the appointment, he added.

"We have a very small window of opportunity," Burns said.

A lack of funding may prevent some clients from beginning treatment, but they more often lose the motivation to follow through, Burns said. After their initial assessment, about 25 percent of clients never begin group sessions, he added.

In emergency situations, OnTrack makes every effort to place clients in treatment within 24 hours, said Executive Director Rita Sullivan. Most clients' waiting period for an assessment, however, ranges from two to three weeks, she said.

The county's largest treatment provider, OnTrack serves between 3,500 and 4,000 clients yearly. ARC serves about 900.

Half of ARC's clients seek treatment for alcohol addiction, according to the agency's enrollment statistics. Thirty percent are addicted to methamphetamine, 13 percent to marijuana, 3 percent to opiates and 2 percent each to heroin and other drugs.

The majority of OnTrack clients report alcohol as their primary substance of addiction, Sullivan said. Yet most cite problems with multiple substances, said Pam Marsh, OnTrack's deputy director. Detailed statistics were not available.

The research project will begin collecting data next month and expects participants to start offering same-day services beginning this fall. Other changes will be implemented through March 2009.

Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail slemon@mailtribune.com.