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Wednesday, August 26, 2020

As Overdoses Spike, States Slash Addiction Treatment Funding



During the COVID-19 pandemic, many individuals and organizations are struggling financially. The economic challenges of the coronavirus outbreak have reached virtually everyone in the US. For people fighting addiction and seeking treatment, the financial challenges are even more devastating. Unfortunately, as overdoses spike, states slash addiction treatment funding as they also are experiencing significantly reduced budgets.

Worsening Crisis


The COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect people across the country, as does the opioid epidemic. There have been an increasing number of reports from national, state and local media suggesting increases in opioid-related mortality—particularly from illicitly manufactured fentanyl and fentanyl analogs. More than 40 states have reported increases in opioid-related mortality as well as ongoing concerns for those with a mental illness or substance use disorder.

Barbara Andraka-Christou, an assistant professor of health management and informatics at the University of Central Florida, says “"The coronavirus pandemic is, unfortunately, expected to worsen the opioid overdose crisis. Many individuals are experiencing triggers, such as family- or job-related stress, that may lead them to relapse." She added, "Many people are losing their jobs and the funds necessary to pay for lifesaving health care. Those of us working in public health research are very worried."

Early research shows that accessing addiction treatment is becoming more difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic. A third of Americans have noted disruptions in care. Approximately 14% say they’re unable to access treatment at all.

Disruption in Service


The Addiction Policy Forum conducted an anonymous survey between April 27 and May 8, 2020, and found that:

  • More than one in three (34%) of the 1,079 respondents reported changes or disruptions in accessing treatment or recovery support services.
  • Fourteen percent say they were unable to receive their needed services and 2% say they were unable to access naloxone services.
  • Nationwide, 4% of respondents report an overdose has occurred since the pandemic began. The South Atlantic region reported the greatest number and percent of overdoses. The region includes Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and the District of Columbia.
  • Twenty-four percent of respondents indicate that their/their family member’s substance use has changed because of COVID-19, with 20% reporting increased substance use.

State Cuts


During COVID-19, as these overdoses spike, states slash addiction treatment funding often because they are cash-strapped themselves. Oregon is slashing $69 million from the state’s 2021 budget for behavioral health services, including a $2 million reduction for outpatient programs in particular. Colorado has cut $26 million from its treatment funding. In addition, the state’s plan to invest in training for medical professionals to identify individuals at risk of substance use disorder will take a $1 million cut. Minnesota will also see service reductions because of shortfalls in fees collected from pharmaceutical companies.

Georgia has cut $5.7 million from its substance use disorder programs, including residential treatment facility expansions. New Jersey and Utah have also slashed millions from the budget for future substance use disorder programs. In Florida, the governor vetoed over $12 million in behavioral health funds meant to go toward initiatives such as substance abuse prevention programs, crisis intervention programs, and a long-acting injectable buprenorphine pilot program.

Medicaid funding, which supports about 21% of the country’s substance use disorder program spending, is being cut back significantly in many states across the country. The federal government earmarked $425 million for behavioral health in its emergency relief package, but the experts say that won’t come close to filling the gap left by the state slashes.

COVID Challenges


Given orders to stay home and maintain social distances, many treatment programs are challenged with providing addiction treatment services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Telehealth has become more acceptable and more common. However, many treatment facilities are having to cut back on their capacity, which has the circular effect on their budgets as well.

The National Council for Behavioral Health surveyed its 3400 members in April 2020. It found that 92.6% of both residential and outpatient centers — had cut back their programs, forcing many to furlough employees or lay them off. A month into the pandemic, two-thirds of those centers said they had enough cash to last three months or less.

Addiction Treatment During a Pandemic


At Celebrate Hope, we recognize that these are challenging times. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we encourage you to get help with your addiction. We are following all CDC COVID-19 guidelines for your health and safety. A Christian treatment center, we are located in the heart of San Juan Capistrano, in Southern California. We provide faith-based, compassionate addiction programs for you when you are battling a substance use disorder. Start celebrating hope today! Please contact us to learn more about our faith-based addiction treatment program and how we ensure that our clients are safe.

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