Jennifer Hansen's Struggle with Addiction and the Challenges of Treatment
Jennifer Hansen's Addiction Journey
Jennifer Hansen's battle with addiction began two decades ago when she was struggling with a $300-a-day heroin habit. She sought treatment at various rehabilitation facilities, including Seabrook House in Bridgeton, which was one of the few facilities of its kind in the region at the time. Insurance covered 30 days of her treatment at Seabrook House, after which her parents paid for her to attend a California clinic to help her achieve sobriety.
The Current State of Addiction Treatment
Hansen, now 40, acknowledges that the landscape of addiction treatment has changed since her experiences, but not necessarily for the better. Today, most patients leave primary treatment after about a week, which is barely enough time to detox from the substance they were abusing.
Challenges in Accessing Treatment
Hansen, who founded the Galloway sober living facility Hansen House in 2003, emphasizes the difficulties in accessing adequate treatment. She stresses that these challenges are particularly acute for individuals who lack supportive networks and financial resources.
The Impact of Insurance Coverage
Despite the availability of more treatment options, addiction experts point to deficient insurance coverage as a significant barrier to recovery for many patients. Moreover, the lack of readily available performance data on treatment facilities hinders informed decision-making for patients seeking treatment.
Statistics on Addiction and Treatment
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), over 23.2 million people aged 12 and older required treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol use disorder in 2007. However, only 3.9 million received treatment at a substance-abuse facility. NIDA's 2009 report identified lack of insurance and insufficient coverage as primary reasons for this disparity. Additionally, the report found that relapse rates among those who seek treatment range from 40 to 60 percent.
Insurance Companies' Role in Treatment Access
Robin Barnett, co-owner of Park Bench Group Counseling, a treatment facility in Northfield, highlights the role of insurance companies in limiting access to adequate treatment. She explains that insurance companies often restrict coverage to two weeks, falling short of the 90 days or more recommended by NIDA guidelines.
The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act
Despite the promise of improved access to treatment with the passage of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act in 2008, insurers have found ways to circumvent or ignore the legislation's provisions. Barnett points out that coverage is often discontinued as soon as physical symptoms subside, even though the psychological addiction persists.
The Impact of Discharge on Recovery
The realities of addiction further complicate the recovery process. For individuals with strained family relationships, discharge from treatment can pose an additional obstacle to sustained sobriety.
The Role of Sober Living Facilities
Barnett's treatment center provides support to patients whose insurance companies cease coverage, but there are limitations to this charitable approach. Hansen also emphasizes the importance of sober living facilities in supporting recovery. She advocates for increased government support for these facilities.
The Need for Informed Consumers
Raquel Mazon Jeffers, deputy director of the state Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services, stresses the need for informed consumers in the addiction treatment landscape. She encourages individuals seeking treatment to verify a facility's licensure and good standing with the state. Additionally, she recommends researching the program's approach and its basis in scientific research.
Financial Considerations in Treatment Decisions
Despite the importance of quality treatment, financial considerations often weigh heavily on decisions. Hansen observes that individuals without insurance may have an easier time accessing treatment due to their eligibility for county or state funding. However, they may have limited choices in selecting a treatment facility.
The Impact of Timing on Treatment Access
Even the time of year when an individual seeks treatment can influence access. Hansen explains that funding sources often reset in January, leading to potential shortages in November and December.
Waiting Lists for Treatment Facilities
While the number of treatment facilities in South Jersey has increased since Hansen's treatment journey, waiting lists can still be lengthy, particularly for sober living facilities like those operated by The Hansen Foundation.
The Urgent Need for Change
Hansen underscores the urgent need for change in both insurance coverage and governmental support for sober living facilities. She believes that stronger government support could make a significant difference in addressing the addiction crisis.