Confidential addiction help | Most insurance accepted

Overcoming Access Barriers to Addiction Treatment


Sometimes it feels like all of the cards are stacked against people struggling with addiction. Whether it is the stigma attached to the heroin user or the reluctance from insurance carriers unwilling to pay for addiction treatment, it is an uphill climb to recovery on a very steep and uneven surface. Many clinicians are frustrated by the difficulty of finding adequate care options for their patients who suffer from substance use disorders. This article takes a look at some common barriers and some strategies that are being considered to overcome them.

Common Barriers to Addiction Treatment

One startling statistic comes from the American College of Emergency Physicians who found that 57 percent of ER doctors say substance users that show up in their facilities are not able to receive the addiction treatment they need. Some common barriers to treatment include:
  • Access to insurance The Kaiser Family Foundation found that in 2015 more than 441,000 people with opioid addiction were uninsured. With the current administration seeking to restructure Medicaid expansion that occurred under the Affordable Care Act, the organization has suggested that the volume of uninsured will increase. Kaiser Family Foundation suggests that one in five adults with opioid addiction is currently uninsured.
  • Shortage of addiction treatment providers Last summer, the Boston Globe reported on the lack of addiction treatment providers in their state. Social workers were having trouble finding ancillary providers, such as transportation or housing, for substance users. Residential treatment centers were struggling to find enough staff to provide care to patients. The National Association of Social Workers points out that there is a chronic shortage of social workers, which has worsened since the opioid epidemic started.
  • Physicians unaware of resources for addiction treatment Scientific studies are showing that some physicians, including primary care providers, lack the understanding needed to help funnel substance users into addiction treatment. One study showed that 50 percent of the patients surveyed said their family practice doctor did not address their substance use. Interestingly, the same study showed 80 percent of these clinicians adequately treated their patient’s diabetes and hypertension.
Addiction treatment providers are well aware of these barriers. As the volume of drug and alcohol abuse has risen, what are some of the strategies to combat the problem?

Light at the End of the Addiction Treatment Struggle?

There are new strategies being undertaken to help counteract some of these problems. States are enacting a variety of programs to try to support addiction treatment and the clinicians that provide care. For example:
  • In New Jersey, another 864 beds were added to help treat substance users in the state.
  • Massachusetts is working to expand Medicaid coverage in order to add 850 more beds between 2017 and 2018.
  • Hospitals around the country are stepping up in response to the epidemic.
  • West Virginia is working to expand residential addiction treatment, housing, and other services in the state.
Addiction treatment
While these are all steps in the right direction, these solutions have not solved the bigger problem outlined by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, which is that only one in 10 Americans with a substance use problem receives treatment. Clearly, more work is ahead in the struggle to combat what has become a national epidemic. Are you a clinician looking for a solution for a patient with a substance use disorder? Contact us to find out more about referring patients to our facilities.
We are here to help 24/7 321.527.2576