<img height="1" width="1" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=264746204247287&amp;ev=PageView &amp;noscript=1">

The Climb

Understanding the Substance Use Disorder Continuum of Care

Jun 5, 2019 2:20:53 PM / by Ascension Recovery Services

Ascension Recovery Services offers program development services for individuals and hospital systems that are creating substance use disorder treatment programs. One of the main questions that our clients ask is, “Which service should I offer?” 

To answer this question, it is important to understand which services are appropriate for an individual, the location of the services and a client’s budget. Seeking treatment is the first step in beginning the road to recovery for substance use disorder, but it can be confusing to know where to start. With different levels of care, it is necessary to understand which one is appropriate for an individual’s situation and needs. The continuum of care includes services such as:

  • Detox
  • Residential Treatment
  • Partial Hospitalization
  • Intensive Outpatient
  • General Outpatient 
  • Sober Living


Ascension Continuum Slide-01

Individuals seeking treatment will go through all, a few, or just one service on the continuum of care. 


The first step for some will be detox. Withdrawal from some substances can be life-threatening or difficult to do without medical supervision. Typically, detox will last seven to ten days in a safe environment. An individual may also need Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) during this time.  After, it may be recommended the individual enter a residential treatment program, partial hospitalization program, outpatient program, or sober living.

Residential Treatment Center 

A residential treatment center is a live-in facility that will provide 24-hour care for an individual.  Programs can last 28 days, but longer treatment options up to a year are possible. This level of care is appropriate for an individual who has found it difficult to stay clean on their own and needs more intensive treatment. A residential treatment program can include individual or group therapy, peer recovery and MAT. 

Partial Hospitalization Programs

Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) are also known as day-treatment. An individual will receive treatment for five hours a day, five days a week during this time. PHP is similar to residential treatment; however, the individual will be able to return home at the end of the day.  This type of treatment can be appropriate for those who need a high level of care but are not able to enter a full residential treatment.

Intensive Outpatient Programs

Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) are comprised of individual and group therapy, typically for three hours a day for three days a week. This level of care would be appropriate for an individual who has been through residential treatment and would like to continue with treatment as they reintegrate back into daily life. It may also be the first step of care for an individual who did not need residential treatment, e.g. a man or woman who can stop using drugs on their own. They are able to continue with their personal and work responsibilities but need intensive therapy in the beginning. A general outpatient program would be similar to IOP but may require fewer hours a week. 

Sober Living Homes

When individuals stop using substances, it may be difficult for them to return to their environment directly after or during treatment. Sober living homes provide a structured and supportive space for them to live while they transition back into society. Residents of a sober living home are typically employed and carry on their daily activities while continuing their treatment. Offering this option in combination with other treatment can increase an individual’s likelihood of sustaining long-term recovery. 


Ascension Recovery Services is passionate about helping individuals and groups create quality treatment. The more services on the continuum of care that are offered to an individual, the more likely it is to be effective for them. However, starting out, most clients choose to focus on one area of the continuum of care depending on their location and budget.

Analysis and Planning 

Our team begins the first phase with a feasibility and market analysis that will determine the best location for a successful treatment program. Research is conducted to analyze demographics and logistic considerations. Our team can determine which service on the continuum of care would be best suited for a location, or which location would be best suited for the service the client would like to offer. A town with multiple sober living homes may not need another one, but it could use an intensive outpatient program to supplement them.

Business Plan Implementation

In the second phase, Ascension will conduct a budget and financial analysis to ensure sustainability and that our clients will meet their goals. The financial analysis will project yearly return, staffing and salary and required patient census. We can also assist in applying for grant funding to offset the cost of opening. If your entity does not already possess a behavioral health license, our team will work to submit the application during this phase. After the location determined in Phase 1 is chosen, our team will work to secure a facility. This will depend upon the program, but it could include purchasing, leasing, or building the facility.

Launch Plan

Quality and evidence-based programming is the key to a successful treatment program. Program materials and training will depend upon the goals and target demographic of our clients. We work to specifically tailor our clients’ program to their passion and service in the continuum of care. During this time, marketing and branding will be developed to fit the treatment program and prepare for opening.


It is important to know the continuum of care services and which one is a good fit. Ascension offers program development services for the full continuum of care for individuals, investors, universities, hospitals and health care systems. Our team guides clients through the process of understanding and implementing the best service for your community.

If you are interested in developing a treatment program, our expert staff would be happy to assist you. Please contact us below.


Topics: Addiction Treatment Center, intensive outpatient program, sober living home, program development, residential treatment center

Ascension Recovery Services

Written by Ascension Recovery Services

Ascension Recovery Services is a team of experts and specialists with years of experience working with individuals and organizations aiming to open behavioral health organizations.

Subscribe to Email Updates

Recent Posts