The burden of tobacco-related illnesses, disability and death in America is disproportionately experienced by the most vulnerable populations. The 50th Anniversary Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health shows great progress has been made in reducing tobacco use in the United States, yet people with substance use disorders have not benefited from the same advancement. In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that roughly 18.1% of the general population smokes1, while, alarmingly 77-93% of people receiving care in substance use treatment settings use tobacco2. In 2011, in the state of Florida, of the 617 substance use treatment settings, only 41.2% screened for tobacco use, 14.6% prescribed tobacco cessation medications, and 30.8% offered tobacco cessation counseling3. Although, Florida’s smoking rates in the general population are lower than the national average (16.8%)4, the high rate of tobacco use in people with substance use disorders combined with the low rates of screening and cessation services offered, demonstrates that disparities persist in tobacco cessation prevention and treatment for people with substance use disorders.
To address and eliminate these disparities, the National Council for Behavioral Health will lead the design, implementation and robust evaluation (using the Donabedian Model of Quality Improvement5) of the Wellness and Recovery Learning Community which will improve the overall health of people with substance use disorders in the state of Florida by improving tobacco prevention and cessation efforts in ten substance use treatment agencies; and strengthening cross-systems collaboration.