What Does Substance Abuse Treatment Save?

Every state approaches substance abuse and its treatment differently. Some do it particularly well. And, Oregon appears to be one of those states. They are willing to invest their money in treatment and have good justification for taking the road less traveled.

Substance Abuse Treatment Saves
Oregon has proven that substance abuse treatment pays big dividends.

Treatment is one of the many costs of addiction that must be managed. But, Oregon has found that every dollar they spend on substance abuse treatment returns $7. That’s an incredible return but it doesn’t happen overnight. Of course, with any investment, there is a period of time before you realize and can measure the intended return. Oregon has been willing to spend the resources required…particularly money…in the hopes that the long-term effects of treating addiction as a health issue rather than a moral or criminal one will pay off in ways that benefit society as a whole. And, they haven’t been disappointed.

Substance Abuse Treatment Saves Lives and Money

Officials said the way the state views substance abuse informs how they address and pay for it.

“We look at addiction as a chronic, relapsing brain disease,” said Therese Hutchinson of the Oregon Health Authority. “It is a physical health issue, and you treat it like a physical health issue.”

Officials said Oregon Medicaid, which covers more than 600,000 people, pays for such services as outpatient and medication-assisted treatments, hospital-based detoxification and residential care.

And, when the system gets backed up, Oregon makes sure that there is a way for people to find help in the interim until the services they need become available.

De Paul, for example, has support groups for those on its waiting list. They motivate people to stay sober and in some cases start them in outpatient treatment as they wait. Treatment providers also use their links with other agencies to get people into outpatient treatment.

Find additional details about Oregon’s program here

Still, with states trying to cut budgets to deal with shrinking revenues, it requires a “leap of faith” to make a dramatic change to their approach to substance abuse creating an increase in costs…at least in the short-term. Oregon runs its program on the back of Medicaid. Since they philosophically believe addiction is a health issue, this makes sense and provides a framework for their system. For most states, the Medicaid program is already challenged by more need than there are services to fill it. So, it’s not a problem that is likely to be solved any time soon.

Do you think states should offer substance abuse treatment as a service provided by Medicaid? How would you justify the cost? Please comment or share to continue the discussion.

About the author 

Dr. Gala Gorman

Dr. Gala Gorman holds advanced degrees in human development, is a holistic life coach, and published author of the Spiritual Approach™ series of books focused on practical spirituality. She co-founded RecoverYES to support the specific needs of people dealing with addiction.