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Treatment for Teens With Substance Use Disorders Lacking: Experts

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Treatment options are lacking for teens with substance use disorders, experts say. Addiction treatment resources are expensive, hard to find, and often not effective, they tell U.S. News & World Report.

“There is no other disorder or disease that is as undertreated in adolescents as substance use disorders,” said Samuel Ball, President and CEO of CASAColumbia, an organization that researches addiction and treatments. “These can turn into life-or-death situations.” He added, “There really aren’t places for kids to go. As a parent you want your children to be treated in a highly reputable health care system that has [specialists] providing treatment that has been shown to be effective – kind of like what you would expect to see if your kid has cancer.”

Many parents, desperate for help, go online and find expensive facilities, in many cases far from home. Insurance companies’ policies on addiction treatment varies in terms of how much they will pay, whether they will pay for repeat treatments, and how long they will approve treatment.

It can be difficult to receive insurance reimbursement for addiction treatment, according to Jim Myers of Children’s Hospital Colorado. “If we have a child with a mental health diagnosis who also has substance abuse problems, often the insurance company will use the substance abuse instance to deny authorization,” he said.

Hospitals may be reluctant to provide addiction treatment for teens because it is expensive to provide, and they can lose money. Staff at the Hazelden Betty Ford Center, the nation’s largest nonprofit addiction treatment provider, includes a health insurance negotiator, nursing staff for admissions, a primary care doctor, child psychiatrists and psychologists, an addiction counselor, among others. Outpatient treatment can cost $10,000, while residential treatment can range from $20,000 to $32,000.

Hospitals may be reluctant to provide addiction treatment for teens because it is expensive to provide, and they can lose money. Staff at the Hazelden Betty Ford Center, the nation’s largest nonprofit addiction treatment provider, includes a health insurance negotiator, nursing staff for admissions, a primary care doctor, child psychiatrists and psychologists, an addiction counselor, among others. Outpatient treatment can cost $10,000, while residential treatment can range from $20,000 to $32,000.

1 Response to this article

  1. Jared / July 2, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    Is this really true though? I work at a residential treatment center and we just got listed at this website: http://www.residentialtreatmentcenters.me/ Click on any of the states on the map and you’ll find at least 10 if not 100′s of treatment facilities in every state. I realize that the private pay is going to be ridiculous but most insurance companies will take on the cost for at least 30 days if not 3 months. And these are just the residential options. There’s inpatient that’s not really residential or wilderness based (which can be costly) and there’s plenty of meetings that are free, substance abuse counselors that accept insurance, and more. This seems exaggerated to me. The article states the facts about money and availability but talks as if there aren’t a ton of locations specializing specifically in substance abuse. A huge subsect of those work with teenagers only. There are a lot of options but I agree that they are costly. Insurance needs to pony up or not offer these services as a part of their own services.

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