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Alcohol treatment essential

One of the toughest steps for an alcoholic is to shake off the denial. It can fester for years until one day he realizes he’s lost — or is on the verge of losing — his family, his job, even his life.

So he takes the plunge and starts to seek a path to recovery. But there are roadblocks. He can’t access or can’t afford the treatment programs, especially the in-patient ones.

It’s a terrible catch-22 for many Wisconsinites who recognize they need real help.

Wisconsin ranks fifth in the country for people over age 12 needing treatment but not receiving it, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Dr. Richard Brown, clinical director of the Wisconsin Initiative to Promote Healthy Lifestyles, estimates that only 10 percent to 20 percent of Wisconsinites who need help actually get it.

This is criminal, considering we live in a state that leads the country in risky drinking.

Prohibitive costs and lack of insurance parity for substance abuse treatment are the main culprits. Under Wisconsin law, group health insurers can cap coverage at $7,000 per year for mental health and substance abuse treatment, which includes inpatient and outpatient services.

That might have worked in 1985 when the mandate was established, but today, $7,000 only pays about a quarter to a half of what many month long inpatient programs run.

Two proposals to the Legislature, in 2003 and 2005, to raise the annual coverage for substance abuse and mental health coverage to $16,800 died.

If lawmakers really want to address the drinking problem inherent in the Wisconsin culture — and its attendant societal woes — it has to deal with the treatment aspect of it.

We need to get treatment decisions out of the hands of insurance companies and into those of providers and patients. We need insurance parity for alcohol treatment. We need insurance companies to recognize that inpatient treatment is the best option for some.

While it may take more than one run through a treatment program to stay sober, people who get treatment fare far better than those who don’t.

In a state stymied by treatment options, we quickly need to consider the most cost-efficient and effective options for all our residents who recognize they can’t overcome their addictions alone.
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source: Appleton Post Crescent

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