Spanish language proficiency among providers and Latino clients' engagement in substance abuse treatment

Addict Behav. 2013 Dec;38(12):2893-7. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2013.08.022. Epub 2013 Aug 29.


Quality of care, such as provision of services in Spanish, is a common factor believed to improve treatment engagement among Spanish-speaking Latinos in health care. However, there is little evidence that Spanish language proficiency among providers increases treatment access and retention in publicly funded substance abuse treatment. We analyzed client and program data collected in 2010-2011 from publicly funded treatment programs in Los Angeles County, California. An analytic sample of 1903 Latino clients nested within 40 treatment programs located in minority communities was analyzed using multilevel negative binomial regressions on days to initiate and spent in treatment. As hypothesized, Spanish language proficiency was negatively associated with client wait time and positively associated with retention in treatment, after controlling for individual and program characteristics. The path analysis models showed that Spanish language proficiency played a mediating role between professional accreditation and client wait time and retention. These preliminary findings provide an evidentiary base for the role of providers' Spanish language proficiency and Latino engagement in treatment for a population at high risk of treatment dropout. Implications related to health care reform legislation, which seeks to enhance linguistically competent care, are discussed.

Keywords: Latinos; Linguistic competence; Spanish language proficiency; Substance abuse treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accreditation
  • Counseling
  • Health Personnel / standards*
  • Hispanic or Latino / ethnology*
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Los Angeles / ethnology
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / ethnology
  • Professional Competence / standards*
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Spain / ethnology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / ethnology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Waiting Lists