Who Writes the Check? How to Approach Paying for Addiction Treatment

Families struggling to get help for a loved one suffering from addiction, or the addict who finally realizes he or she needs help, know all too well that their world has become a nonstop maelstrom of one trouble after another. While it’s tough trying to navigate such trying times, it’s equally frustrating to find the means to pay for treatment to overcome addiction. Where do you turn? Who can give sound advice and direction? Don’t stress about the situation any longer. Here are some answers to help you approach paying for addiction treatment.

Choose the Type of Treatment Facility

Before you obsess over how much treatment for addiction costs, you first have to know or have a good idea where you want to go for the treatment. Initially, it’s very confusing, since you’re confronted with the need to get treatment and don’t have a clue what treatment center or facility is even right for you or your loved one. Trying to make sense of television ads or Internet sites without some overarching and independent view of addiction treatment facilities is not only exhausting but it’s also a waste of time.

What type of addiction are you dealing with? How long has it been going on? Is there more than one addiction or behavior disorder involved? These are important questions that can give you a better idea of what type of treatment facility to search for.
Is the addiction that’s lasted for years and gotten progressively worse, such as abuse of alcohol that’s completely taken over your life or the life of your loved one? If so, you need a treatment facility that specializes in alcohol addiction. Is it a dependence on prescription drugs combined with alcohol abuse, or illicit drugs and alcohol dependence? You need a treatment facility or center that provides integrated care for dual diagnosis addictions. What about compulsive gambling, alcohol and prescription drug abuse? This trifecta of addiction and compulsive behavior requires integrated and coordinated simultaneous treatment at a facility staffed with credentialed professionals trained and experienced in handling them.

How to Find Addiction Treatment Facilities

How do you begin to find such addiction treatment centers and facilities? The best way to begin your search is to use the Treatment Facility Locator maintained by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). You can also call their toll-free, 24-hour treatment facility referral helpline at 1-800-662-HELP. The website and helpline can help you find a detox center, rehab, halfway house, clinic, or counseling center anywhere in the United States. Useful for finding treatment for alcoholism and drug addiction, the treatment facility locator can also be of assistance in finding facilities that treat dual diagnosis addictions, co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders, and special requirements.

Here’s how it works. Using the map, click on a state. Then enter a city and click search. The results will bring up the treatment facilities within a certain radius (default is 100 miles, but you can select 1, 5, 10, 20, or 50 as well).
Using California and Malibu as an example, the search displays 500 facilities within 100 miles. The information provided includes the name of the facility, address, phone number, distance in miles, a map-it function, intake line and/or hotline (as applicable), website URL, and other critical information. The listing for each facility details the following (note that not all facilities provide all services):

• Primary Focus: Such as mix of mental health and substance abuse services or substance abuse treatment services.
• Services Provided: These include substance abuse treatment, detoxification, halfway house, and buprenorphine services, methadone maintenance, methadone detoxification, halfway house.
• Type of Care: Residential short-term treatment (30 days or less). Residential long-term treatment (longer than 30 days). Outpatient, partial hospitalization/day treatment.
• Special Programs/Groups: Women, pregnant/post-partum women, Men, Adolescents, seniors/older adults, persons with co-occurring mental and substance abuse disorders, persons with HIV/AIDS, gays and lesbians, criminal justice clients, DUI/DWI offenders.
• Forms of Payment Accepted: Types include self-payment, Medicaid, Medicare, state-financed insurance (other than Medicaid), private health insurance, military insurance (such as VA, TRICARE), Access to Recovery,
• Payment Assistance: If payment assistance is available, it will be indicated here. The listing may say “Payment assistance (check with facility for details).” It may also say “Sliding fee scale (fee is based on income and other factors).”
• Special Language Services: If applicable, listing will indicate languages such as Arabic, Spanish, Farsi, Russian, Tagalog, ALS or other assistance for hearing impaired, and so on.
Once you find a few treatment facilities that meet your requirements (type of addiction, type of program, payment assistance, etc.), it’s time to do more research on the individual facilities. Now is when you’ll go to their website, if listed, and try to determine more about the treatment programs available there. Also check their website to see what type of payment assistance they offer. If the site isn’t clear, call and ask questions.

Types of Payment Assistance

When you are desperate to get treatment for you or your loved one with addiction and money is an issue, you shouldn’t let that prevent you from moving ahead with your search for appropriate care. There is always some type of payment assistance available at one facility or another. Or you can get help with payment through various federal, state, and local agencies. First, however, check the facility to see what they offer.

At the outset, you may think that some residential and better-known treatment facilities wouldn’t have any reduced cost stay or some form of assistance for lower-income participants. While it’s true that not all of them do, many do have such assistance available. Of course, even though the facility may write off what they provide as a tax deduction, the fact is that you will still be required to pay something – and, depending on the facility, this cost may be substantial.

Such payment assistance may take the form of sliding pay scale or ability to pay programs. Other facilities may be able to link you with federal, state, or local agencies for various payment assistance programs. There is also the possibility that the facility has scholarships or grants. Wherever you see “Payment assistance (check with facility for details),” it’s a good indication that the facility will work with you to come to mutually-acceptable terms or provide as much financial help as possible.
It never hurts to ask. And, since addiction treatment facilities, while most are in the business to make a profit, don’t want to turn potential clients away who need their services.

Check for what’s available in your state by using the State Substance Abuse Agencies listing on the SAMHSA site (http://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/ufds/abusedirectors). This is a listing by state or territory that provides the name, address, phone, fax, email address, website URL (if applicable), and hotline (if available). Check your state and see what assistance they can give you, perhaps with referrals, or information on how to go about paying for treatment in your area.

Private Insurance Coverage and Employee Assistance

Be sure to check with your private insurance carrier, if you have coverage, either that you purchase yourself or through your employer, to see if your policy provides for any or a significant part of addiction treatment services. Many insurance companies offer generous coverage for drug rehab programs and treatment services to help their insured individuals overcome their addiction.

In addition, the federal medical leave act mandates that you can take time off from work in order to get treatment. Be aware, however, that your employer is not required to pay you while you are off on this medical leave. But different companies have different employee benefit plans, and your company may be more flexible in this regard. Check with your employee benefits coordinator or human resources to find out about what programs the company has available to help you get treatment for addiction, how long you can be off on a medical leave, whether or not you will receive all or part of your paycheck during the leave, how to apply, duration allowed, and other questions.

Federal and State Assistance

There are also various forms of health insurance that may cover all or part of addiction treatment services. These include VA and TRICARE assistance, Medicare, Medicaid, and others. The Veterans Administration offers alcoholism treatment to its beneficiaries, so if you’re a veteran or are in the military currently, you may be able to get treatment paid for through them.
The federal government provides a major contribution to substance abuse treatment costs through Medicaid, the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant. There’s also the Access to Recovery, which provides vouchers to individuals to pay for treatment in some states. Note that not all states participate in the Access to Recovery program. As of 2007, there were 18 states, five tribal organizations, and the District of Columbia participating in Access to Recovery. It’s also important to know that many of these programs are faith-based treatment services. For more information, see Access to Recovery – Taking Action to Heal America’s Substance Users, available through the Office of National Drug Control Policy
(http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/treat/initiative.html). California is one of the states that participate, through the California Access to Recovery Effort (CARE) and California Access to American Indian Recovery (AAIR).

The AAIR site specifies that their purpose is to make the goal of recovery possible for all eligible people. To that end, AAIR connects individuals with a case manager to support and guide them on their path to recovery, help find treatment to meet their needs, and pay for some or all of the cost of the treatment.

The states also provide other types of assistance. In California, for example, the state government provides significant financial assistance through such plans as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan (SCHIP). Why are these state and local agencies willing to provide financial assistance? Let’s look at the facts. According to the California Drug and Alcohol Treatment Assessment (CALDATA), every $1 that is invested in substance abuse treatment delivers an estimated return of $7 in cost savings related to crime control, lost productivity, and lower health costs. But, since many insurance companies don’t offer the kind of coverage that would pay for substance abuse treatment, there’s a huge gap between people needing such services and those actually getting the treatment. That’s why the state and local governments have had to step in and provide financial assistance.

As for types of addiction treatment, some states (Oregon, for example) pay for gambling addiction and also treat alcoholism at the same time.

The goal is to help people who need substance abuse treatment to get it. A healthy society is a more productive society – and everyone benefits.

Look into Financing through the Treatment Facility

If all else fails and you have no outside assistance to help pay for addiction treatment, you may also wish to consider financing programs that may be available through the treatment facility itself, or through one of their affiliated companies or a financing organization with whom they have a contract.

Sure, addiction treatment can be very costly – especially if you have to foot the entire bill. Expect to pay anywhere from $125 to a couple of thousand dollars a day. But just because it may be expensive doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary. You wouldn’t avoid getting treatment if you had cancer, or heart disease, or Type II diabetes, would you? Generally speaking, you wouldn’t – and you wouldn’t let lack of finances stop you from trying to get treatment, either. It’s the same thing with addiction. Addiction is a chronic and progressively debilitating disease. Without treatment, it only gets worse. So, however you need to pay for treatment, ultimately, it will be worth it if you come out the other side able to live in sobriety and free of compulsive behaviors.

If you can get credit to buy a car costing $15,000 to $20,000 or more, you can most likely obtain financing (often at reduced rates, or very affordable rates) for addiction treatment. The other way to look at it isn’t the amount of money you’ll need to repay for months and years after treatment concludes but the reduced amount of costs associated with addiction-related problems (hospitalization, medications, legal fees, prescriptions, loss of income from job, and so on). In this respect, paying for treatment is actually a bargain – however you wind up getting it paid.

Inquire about loans available through the addiction treatment facility you are considering. Also look into your own financing through your bank, credit union, or other means of assistance. Perhaps you could obtain a personal loan from a family member. If so, be sure to have a contract drawn up, and adhere to the repayment schedule. You never want to take advantage of your well-meaning family members by stiffing them on the loan.

Clinical Trials

Another possibility is to look into clinical trials for substance abuse. The purpose of clinical trials related to substance abuse is to investigate and test new counseling and/or medication and therapeutic approaches. While these trials are often free to participants, it is important to understand that many of them are in the investigational stage. They also have specific requirements as to who may participate. But it’s definitely worth considering, especially if money is tight. Check the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Clinical Trials Network for more information (http://www.nida.nih.gov/CTN/Research.html).
A recent search of open clinical trials through the network revealed trials on: smoking cessation and stimulant treatment, Web-delivery of evidence-based psychosocial treatment for substance use disorders, and stimulant reduction intervention using dosed exercise.

Before you enroll in a clinical trial, however, be sure to check with your doctor first. He or she may have some reservations about your participation in a particular trial, or, may, in fact, highly recommend that you go into a trial that he or she already knows about. It all depends on your particular situation. And your doctor should be in the best position to be able to make such a recommendation or give you advice. Never go into a clinical trial without checking with your doctor first.

Ask for Help

Figuring out your way through all this information can be challenging and frustrating. Why not ask for help from a trusted friend, family member, case worker, member of the clergy, or health care provider? They may be able to provide help in the form of referrals to various treatment providers as well as other support.

In the end, if you’re wondering who will write the check to pay for addiction treatment for you or your loved one, consider these tips on finding ways to wade through the cost-of-treatment maze. Then, take the necessary steps to get the treatment you need and deserve. The only way to effective recovery is through counseling, knowledge, changing behavior, and commitment. It takes time – long after treatment concludes – before you can consider your recovery a success. And you’ll need more than financial support to get there. You also need the encouragement and support of a strong network, including your family, close friends and, more than likely, 12-step groups as well.

Ultimately, the cost of addiction treatment is worth every cent. See what you can do today to get involved in the treatment you or your loved one need now. The first step is to make the commitment. The next step is to enroll in treatment. Then, take it one day at a time as you progress in your recovery journey.

You must be logged in to post a comment.