“Courtney Griffin was addicted to heroin and ready to get help. She packed up her things, and her mom drove her to a residential treatment center about an hour from their home in New Hampshire. There was a bed waiting for her. But unfortunately, that’s not where her story ends. Ninety minutes after they arrived, Pamela Griffin said, her daughter was back in the waiting room, shaking her head. Their health insurance company declined to cover the treatment,” according to an NPR article.

Unfortunately, this case is common among adults in the United States. In 2014 alone, over 47,000 individuals died of a drug overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The majority of overdoses occur from opioids, whether they are prescription painkillers or illicit street drugs. Addiction can be a lifelong battle and it affects not just the addicted individuals but also their families, friends and people around them. Obtaining treatment is such a difficult task because private treatment centers are extremely expensive and insurance companies often deny coverage. As a result, these individuals cannot obtain treatment for their addiction. Below are published facts about the addiction rehabilitation and private insurance industry.

  1. Twenty-three million people are addicted to drugs and alcohol, and 2.5 million of them (11 percent) actually receive care.
  2. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimates that addiction treatment is about a $35 billion a year industry.
  3. The averageprice range for a 30-day treatment plan is $15,000 to $26,000.
  4. More than 14,500 addiction treatment centers— which include inpatient, outpatient and residential care — are located in the United States.
  5. Private insurance companies might only cover up to 21 days of inpatient treatment. For severe addiction, many substance abuse professionals recommend inpatient treatment for six to eight weeks — three to five weeks over the average coverage for private insurance companies.
  6. The average PPO health insurance ratefor a 21-year-old is $250 a month. This number increases with age.

Are there any other options?

State-funded rehabilitation centers are organizations that use government money provided by the state to treat people who are in recovery. Individuals qualify if they have low or no income or inadequate or no insurance. The amount of funding, type of state support and the requirements for qualification vary from state to state. Individuals must spend time researching the coverage that their own state provides. Due to limited funding and an increased need for recovery treatment, there is often a long waiting period for treatment, which often deters people from these programs. Additionally, the most up-to-date technologies and treatments are generally not available due to the lack of funding. However, state-funded treatment centers are more effective than no treatment at all.

The NPR article continued: “But when he went to a state-funded treatment center, Lemire was put on a waiting list. ‘I had to call every day, three times a day for three weeks … By the end of two-and-a-half weeks, I gave up. … I got in three car accidents, totaled my car. On the third, woke up in a jail cell … And when I finally got back home I called the rehab, and I guess they deemed me serious enough to require their services, so they bumped me up and got me in.’”

A life-and-death matter

Addiction treatment funding is similar to college education funding. Government scholarships are granted to low-income students, but middle-income students do not generally meet these requirements, yet they still cannot afford to pay full tuition. If an individual who is addicted to heroin does not meet the requirements for government-funded rehabilitation centers and cannot afford private addiction centers, then how does the person receive treatment? Unfortunately, many individuals in need of treatment, like Courtney Griffin, are unable to receive adequate coverage and are losing their lives to the battle of addiction.