Monday, August 17, 2015

How the Health Care System Fails Addicts

For everyone who writes off people with addiction... for everyone who gets frustrated with drug users and doesn't give them a second glance... For people who get frustrated with addicts for not "just going to rehab and getting their act together..."

Imagine how it feels to have (or to BE) a patient who tearfully admits they need help. You work all day... maybe even for days and days... to find a bed at a rehab that participates with that patients health insurance. Oh and if we do find a bed, your insurance only covers x amount so you'll still have hundreds and hundreds of dollars to pay out of pocket. ...Only to tell them, "I'm sorry, you're medically stable, you can't stay in the hospital anymore, and there isn't a rehab bed within 4 hours that participates with your insurance. I'm sorry. We can put you on their waiting list but it's 3 weeks long." (Three weeks is an eternity for an addict that has just detoxed at an acute care hospital.)

Or, worse yet, you have a patient that was admitted to the hospital after an overdose, wants rehab desperately, but their addiction has cost them their job, their savings, their family. They have no social support. They have no insurance. And you tell them that it's going to be thousands of dollars out of pocket to get the help they need. If we can even find a bed that will take someone without insurance. They laugh, because, who has that kind of money? Then they cry because this was their last hope.

Do you know how helpless it feels as a social worker to not be able to provide that desperate person with the help they are requesting? With the help they need in order to stay alive?

I don't know the solution. I know there isn't a clear-cut answer. But something needs to change.

"Now, a couple of parents who lost their son to a heroin overdose are pointing out that drug addiction doesn't tend to be treated like a disease in the United States — which means that when drug users want to get treatment, health insurance coverage often comes up short.
And until the prevailing thinking changes, these parents say, progress will only be made on the edges."
(Source: NPR)