How California Addicts with Low-Income Status Can Seek Treatment

For those living at or below the poverty level, the devastating effects of substance abuse are exponentially increased, with limited resources resulting in not only acts of greater desperation undertaken to procure the drug of choice, but more tragically, overwhelming challenges in seeking help. The drug problem in Northern California is especially rife, as this is where much of the national supply of marijuana and methamphetamine is produced, and drug trafficking rings are known to move drugs through the area in order to get them to Canada.

This abundance of illicit drugs means that residents of Northern California are particularly vulnerable to substance abuse and addiction.

Treating Addiction in Low-Income California Residents

Good news for low-income California addicts came in 2015 when it was announced that the state would be overhauling its substance abuse treatment system for low-income people, embarking on a massive experiment to create a smoother path for addicts from detox through recovery. This program is intended to be an effective address of the drug problem in California, where only a small fraction of low-income residents can receive treatment for their problem, largely because of MediCal restrictions.

The California Medical Assistance Program (Medi-Cal or MediCal) is California’s Medicaid program serving low-income individuals, including: families, seniors, persons with disabilities, children in foster care, pregnant women, and childless adults with incomes below 138% of federal poverty level. It is jointly administered by the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) and the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), with many services implemented at the local level by the counties of California. Approximately 12.5 million people were enrolled in Medi-Cal as of May 2015, or about 32.4% of California’s population.

California was the first state to receive federal permission to revamp drug and alcohol treatment for beneficiaries of Medi-Cal, a step towards handling the drug problem in Northern CA. This revamp will give state officials new spending flexibility as they try to help people get sober and reduce social and financial costs of people with substance abuse disorders. The plan provides for expansion of treatment services, including inpatient care, case management, recovery services and added medication.

The changes stem in part from the Affordable Care Act, which required that substance abuse treatment is covered for people newly insured through Medicaid or insurance exchanges. The hope is that the reimbursement rates of MediCal will be increased so that providers will have the resources to produce the lasting results that will make a real difference, and help health care expenses overall by enabling more people to get sober and healthier so they stop rotating through treatment centers, jails, and hospitals.

Nearly 14 percent of Medicaid recipients are believed to have a substance abuse disorder, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

With the new program parameters, Medi-Cal beneficiaries will be able to access up to two 90-day residential stays each year, with the possibility of one 30-day extension if providers determine that it is medically necessary. Certain populations, including those in the criminal justice system, can get approval for longer stays. There will also be improved coordination between physical, mental health and substance abuse services, which could result in fewer emergency room visits and hospitalizations.

For the first time, substance abuse disorders will be treated like a disease rather than a short-term illness. A key element of any effective rehabilitation system includes sufficient time to detox but also to rehabilitate, including the ability to transition back to society, reducing the chances of relapse.

Non-profit rehab referral and placement services such as Rehab Hotline will help connect those seeking help with the service that is best suited to them.

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