By Janell Ross
A trio of Washington Post stories this week detail the horrible toll of rising heroin addiction, along with the very much related issues of limited access to substance-abuse treatment and other forms of mental health care.
Among the saddest takeaways: People with means can send their kids to rehab, try to get them clean and sometimes shelter their public reputations. Sometimes, all of that fails; young people die.
Sometimes when the funds exist, as Patrick Kennedy wrote in his new book released this week, the honesty required to get help is not there or is too slow in coming. And for everyone else, access to drug detox and rehabilitation treatment — the gold standard for addiction management — are only as accessible as what their insurance companies and charity will cover. The odds of survival and recovery for these people are even slimmer. The most recent federal data indicates the number of people who overdosed and died due to heroin grew 39 percent between 2012 and 2013. In the latter year, more than 8,000 people died.
But wait, you might say, isn’t there a 2008 law that was supposed to address this? Yes. But, it seems it did not. What about the mental health care parity mandates that went into effect in January 2014, under Obamacare? Well, results there can at best be described as mixed.
The Affordable Care Act has boosted the number of Americans with health insurance coverage but has not resolved the disparate way in which many insurers treat the costs of mental and physical health care, according to an April report released by the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The report found that federal changes (part of the Affordable Care Act) mandating so-called parity between mental and physical health-care benefits do not, in practice, exist for the vast majority of Americans who are insured.