$2.5 Million for Addiction Treatment Just a Start
by Dr. TJ Kozma
Back in January, Governor LePage signed a bill unanimously passed by the State House and Senate that set allocated $1.2 million for 10 new positions at the Maine DEA and $2.5 million for addiction treatment. That sounds like a lot of money to help with Maine’s growing problem with addiction, but is it?
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and we are in the midst of an epidemic.
Addiction treatment costs money. Some treatment is free, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. There are also online treatment sites that connect addicts with those who are trying to give back to the community in an effort to help stem the growing tide of addiction. These can also be free.
But most treatment isn’t free. For those lucky enough to have insurance, newly-passed mental health “parity” laws require insurance carriers to cover addiction treatment the same way they cover the treatment of other illnesses. This has been a major step toward helping many people get the treatment they so desperately need. Yet some insurance carriers can still place limits on length and intensity of treatment, and they sometimes do.
Few and far between are the 30-, 60-, or 90-day residential treatment programs that are covered completely by insurance. They can be prohibitively expensive, upwards of $1000 or more per day, so long-term treatment is out of reach for most people who don’t have such coverage.
The Scarborough Police Department’s Operation Hope is doing its best to connect addicts with “scholarship” (donated) beds at treatment facilities across the country, and demand quickly outstrips supply.
Addiction is a chronic and relapsing illness, so rarely is it “fixed” with just one treatment. This means that during a lifetime these costs can be multiplied several times over. The cost of failure to society would be much greater than the initial sticker shock, so $2.5 million for additional treatment really isn’t that much after all. But it’s a good start.
Dr. Kozma is a Board-Certified Addiction Medicine physician. He has been practicing Addiction Medicine in the greater Portland area for the last 13 years.