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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Closing the Treatment Gap: Review

Drug and alcohol addiction affects all parts of American society and there is not enough of drug and alcohol treatment according to new data by the Closing the Treatment Gap (CATG) initiative. There is not a family in America which hasn't been affected in some way by addiction reinforcing the need for more treatment facilities. New health care reforms could help millions of people receive treatment despite their financial standing. Now, health insurance has to cover treatment costs because of the 2010 health care reform.

“Drug use is on the rise in this country and 23.5 million Americans are addicted to alcohol and drugs. That’s approximately one in every 10 Americans over the age of 12 – roughly equal to the entire population of Texas. But only 11 percent of those with an addiction receive treatment. It is staggering and unacceptable that so many Americans are living with an untreated chronic disease and cannot access treatment,” said Dr. Kima Joy Taylor, director of the CATG Initiative.

According to CATG review of the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a number of important factors should be considered:

  • Twenty-three million Americans are currently addicted to alcohol and/or other drugs. Only one in 10 of them (2.6 million) receives the treatment they need. The result: a treatment gap of more than 20 million Americans.
  • Cost and lack of insurance is the primary obstacle cited by Americans who say they need but are unable to receive treatment. Among those able to access treatment, nearly half (48.4 percent) reported using their own money to pay for their care.
  • In contrast to other chronic diseases, funding for addiction treatment disproportionately comes from government sources. More than three-quarters – 77 percent – of treatment costs are paid by federal, state and local governments, including Medicaid and Medicare. Private insurance covers only 10 percent of addiction treatment costs, with out-of- pocket expenditures and other private funding making up the remaining percentage. In contrast, private insurance pays for approximately 37 percent of general medical costs.
  • Screening and treatment is not integrated into the health care delivery system. Less than seven percent of those receiving treatment were referred by another health provider. In contrast, slightly more than two-thirds of those receiving treatment got there through self-referrals or the criminal justice system.

"Our society and our health care system have been slow to recognize and respond to addiction as a chronic, but treatable, condition,” said Dr. Taylor. “While change doesn’t happen overnight, if health care reform is implemented properly, millions of Americans will finally have insurance coverage for addiction treatment. This is an historic step toward a comprehensive, integrated approach to health care that includes treatment of addiction."

Health Care in America has had its back turned on addicts and it is time to start helping people find recovery and have chance to better their lives. The battle continues and this is only one step along the way but it's a big step.

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