I spent about 3 years as the CEO of a drug and alcohol treatment center called Healing Path Recovery. My theory on the drug epidemic and the treatment industry is as follows:
There are all kinds of drug addicts out there, and all of them have some desire to get clean. Their desire to get clean does fluctuate from day to day, and from hour to hour. This is a symptom of the disease. Addiction is a brain disease that is characterized by relapse and by ambivalence about getting sober.
The process of getting clean or getting into treatment is convoluted by a messy paperwork process required by healthcare insurance and healthcare regulations. Addicts have mental illness, tend to be low functioning, and are not able to jump the hurdles to getting into treatment during the 4-6 hours per day that they might be wanting to get sober. After a few hours, the desire to get high returns. This presents a small window to do a large amount of paperwork. Paperwork is one of the main obstacles to sobriety.
Addicts who have PPO health insurance are over-served. They can get into treatment easily, and can attend treatment multiple times. Addicts who have HMO, EPO, or medicaid are under-served.
At Healing Path Recovery, I had excellent staff members who worked hands-on with addicts, and this freed me up to work on making treatment more accessible. For many years, I navigated an endless sea of paperwork and healthcare regulations. I did 50-100 page applications for medi-cal, Anthem, Humana, Tricare, and many more organizations that can make treatment more accessible. I also attempted to design processes that would streamline the process of getting into treatment, so people could get in during that narrow window of motivation.
Although I did succeed in making treatment more accessible to addicts with HMO and military health insurance, I regret that I lost the battle to become a medi-cal provider. I believe that medicaid (called medi-cal in the state of california) is the ultimate key to defeating the opioid crisis.
I did my best, I guess that’s all anyone can really do.
I believe that if we, as a country, decide to make it easy for treatment centers to work with medicaid and easy for addicts to enter treatment, we will quickly turn the tide of opioid deaths, homelessness, urban decay, and increasing crime. I remain hopeful that this will happen some day in the future, and I remain grateful to be working on the prevention side of the problem now that my time with Healing Path Recovery has come to an end.