Who Lives, Who Dies?

We’ve been talking a lot about recovery. If it’s the right name, if people should be public about it, if it’s possible to have a recovery movement. In that conversation we forget that most people who have this illness won’t get anywhere near recovery. Less than 10% of the 24 million people with a substance abuse problem will ever get near any kind of treatment for their life threatening illness. Why? because it’s expensive. And in the greatest capitalist country on earth (with its strong aversion to socialism) the only folks who get to pay for this expensive treatment are those who have the money. We don’t spend our tax dollars on treatment for kids who might die, kill someone else or be a life-long drain on society as a result of their addiction and co-occurring mental illnesses.

I received an e-mail from a woman who has a 16 year old addicted, bipolar son and cannot get him help or get anyone to pay attention. The kid’s been in counseling since the age of 11, has been to numerous outpatient programs and did a rehab in Florida paid for by a home equity loan.  He’s a work in progress.  That’s what his mom says about him. According to this good woman who wants nothing more than to help her son, “in New Jersey it is impossible to get help for a dual diagnosis, especially in an adolescent without the adolescent being “in crisis”.  I’ll tell anyone who’ll listen that I’m trying to prevent a crisis.  It defies logic.” She tried talking to politicians and got nowhere. They understood, after all, that “our children are our greatest resources” but none got off their asses to do anything. Going to bat for drug addicts and the mentally ill doesn’t bring in the cash or the votes. Is anyone doing anything for people in the public sector? If you have $20 or $50k there are plenty of places that will take your money. And maybe your kid stays alive. If you don’t… your kid suffers and maybe dies. 22 million people in this country don’t get any kind of shot.  Is anybody else pissed off about this out there?


~ by Christopher Kennedy Lawford on July 7, 2010.

8 Responses to “Who Lives, Who Dies?”

  1. Mental health issues are not respected all the way around; having a child that was diagnosed on the spectrum you constantly feel like you have to point out the symptoms and why they act like they do. Heartache, hairy eyeball looks from uneducated parents and teachers alike it is beyond hurtful. Mental health issues as a result of how society treats them dominoes and sometimes spirals into other issues (i.e.obesity,depression etc) Shameful. I have tried to turn the hurt into positive energy and helped form a group for mom’s to network and help each other. What knocks us down can also make us stronger …speaking up and creating change is challenging but necessary. Thank you Chris for doing just that!:)

  2. I honor the memory of my sister Laura who died at 46 after an unsuccessful 25 year battle with her alcohol addiction. We offer hope and help @ http://www.bradmersereau.com with Recovery Resources, Sobriety Pledge and Sobriety Anniversary webpages. I applaud your dedicated work, Christopher. We’re in this together.

  3. I’ve been in recovery for 33 years and had the privilege of working for some of the most well known treatment centers in the country for 30 of those years. Currently, I’m semi-retired, working on a contractual basis for some of those same treatment centers. I was working in the treatment field pre and post managed care.

    I am horrified with the availability of treatment in this country to those who need it. The individuals in charge have poured billions of dollars into the criminal justice model of addressing addiction, while making treatment last on their list of priorities. The fact that it isn’t working doesn’t appear to lead them to consider a change in direction. It does lend itself to that old definition of insanity – doing the same things over and over, expecting different results.

    Currently, I live in Rehoboth Beach, DE. I’ve had a home in Rehoboth for years, but have found it impossible to work in the state. This is due to the unbelievably bad treatment for addiction that has flourished for years in a state that should be a model for the rest of the nation. Most of my work is in TN, contracting for a facility that has ethics and values, but struggles to provide money for treatment to those who are unable to afford it.

    At this point, I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m clear that a first step would be to admit that what is being done is not working. At least that opens the door to the possibility of change.

  4. I have been lucky enough to get the help I needed 4 months ago….unfortunately, even with health insurance, I had to spend all my savings doing so. I was told after getting out of a detox facility that I did not need any further inpatient care! I was scared, lonely and tired of living my life the way I was but was unable to have my health insurance pay. I was so determined to get help, that I cashed in my CD and went into an inpatient, 28 day program that saved my life. I was blessed to have this option at any cost….but not nearly enough people do have an option. I live in New Jersey and found a wonderful treatment facility in PA….I hope and pray that something can be done to help the so many people that need help.

  5. Chris, you and your readers are spot on. Please keep the conversation going. I think your articles are terrific. And I do believe, the more we speak about this topic, hopefully the shame and fear will subside, then we can change laws, people’s minds & availability of treatment for everyone at an earlier stage. Is it possible to have your articles published weekly in a prominent newspaper, i.e. Boston Globe, NY Times, Washington Post?

    Thank you for your work and voice.

  6. Before I was featured on the program Intervention, I was so desperate to get help that I was actually considering buying crystal meth off of an undercover cop so that I would be arrested and then ask the judge if I could be “court ordered” to go to treatment, of some kind. I wonder how many other addicts have taken that route out of desperation. What kind of message does that send? If you are at the point in your addiction that killing yourself is looking pretty good, go commit a crime and make sure you get caught so you can have a shot at a decent life? That makes absoloutely no sense. That’s just wrong.

  7. My mother attempted to get my 29 year old brother help with his alcoholism. Our suspicion all along was clinical depression being medicated w/ alcohol. When my brother ended up in yet another ER and the psychiatrist on-call refused to do a psych eval. because he said it was clear that he was “simply an alcoholic”, my 60 year old mother begged for him to reconsider — on her knees. He refused. When my brother died from alcohol poisoning 9 days later, she decided to laminate and send a copy of his obituary to show him not only that he wasn’t “just a drunk” but implored him to help the next time a mother begged. In response, he sent his bill. There is not enough time to write about what is wrong with that…

  8. I live in Palm Beach , Florida where we are lucky enough to have two treatment centers that will not refuse treatment for substance abuse to anyone for inability to pay. I worked in one of these treatment centers twice and was also a client at it once.
    south of us in Ft. Lauderdale, there is also a similar treatment center that will not refuse treatment to anyone for inability to pay.
    These treatment centers were started by private individuals who sought out and obtained various forms of funding from local, state, and federal agencies.

    There IS funding available for this if someone has the initiative and determination and desire to go the nine yards and invest their entire energies into it.

    The treatment center I worked at twice and went through as a client once helped over 6,300 individuals last year that had no insurance or funds to provide treatment. That’s 6,300 people that would NOT have gotten any treatment if they had to rely on the “normal” treatment centers that dot our country that are based on making a “profit” to stay in business. As Chris said–they charge anywhere betweeen $13,000 to $60,000 for a 28 day stay.

    This is an absurd situation. The fact that the government agencies supposedly designated with dealing with the Substance Abuse Crisis in our country—which is costing the country BILLIONS in related costs, such as incarceration, hospital bills for overdoses as well as victims of these untreated substance abusers, who will resort to almost anything to obtain more of their substances, are doing almost NOTHING to aid those with no insurance or funds for treatment is insane!

    The treatment center I worked at that helped over 6,300 individuals get treatment last year, probably saved the local economy 30 times that cost in related crime and hospital costs that were NOT incurred as a result of those 6,300 people that GOT treatment.

    Do the math; it’s a very easy extrapolation to see that it is incredibly less expensive to give substance abusers treatment, than not to. Less crime, less vilence, less hospital bills incurred comes with giving treatment to those who need it. It doesn’t “COST US” —– it “SAVES US MONEY”.

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