In his State of the State address last February, Gov. Pat McCrory discussed how his life was “moved by stories of addiction and its impact on families.”
As an example, he pointed to two special guests present for the speech, Rebekah and Mike Allred. McCrory said the story of how they had overcome drug addiction should serve as an example for everyone.
“Their story can be repeated in every [one] of the 100 counties in North Carolina, and we have to do everything that we can to help this terrible addiction issue throughout North Carolina,” McCrory said.
In the speech, McCrory called for legislation re-establishing state drug treatment courts and increasing penalties for meth lab operators.
But state lawmakers discussed closing state treatment centers down in favor of expensive private facilities and local hospitals this summer. The measure to close those facilities was shot down, but they will still receive a cut in funding.
Bob Kochersberger, associate professor of English, has seen the tragic story of addiction play out in his own life. His son, Charlie, took his own life after years of struggling with a heroin addiction.
In an op-ed published in The News & Observer, Kochersberger called on the state to lead the way in treating addicts by continuing to fund North Carolina’s three addiction treatment centers, in Greenville, Black Mountain and Butner.
“The numbers are hard to pin down – as many as 10 percent of Americans over the age of 12 are addicted to something – but they are devastating,” Kochersberger wrote. “The vast array of addictive substances, both legal and illegal, further elevates the urgency of a smart and humane response to addiction. The state should expand, not close, treatment facilities.”
The three state alcohol and drug abuse treatment centers, Walter B. Jones in Greenville, R.J. Blackley in Butner and Julian Keith in Black Mountain, provide inpatient intensive care for low-income adults.
According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, the three ADATCs provide services to about 4,000 patients per year at a daily cost lower than community inpatient beds and state psychiatric hospital beds.
Of these, 87 percent of patients are indigent and have no type of insurance. Of the 13 percent with some insurance, only 8 percent have Medicare.
This high cost of treatment was a point of contention earlier this summer on the floor of the General Assembly, where some members said addicts could get adequate care in their own communities, sponsored by private facilities or hospitals near their homes.
The problem with privatizing this type of care, Kochersberger said, is with the high cost of treatment.
“The bottom line is that it’s very costly,” Kochersberger said. “Treatment can run anywhere from $8,000 to $12,000 per month. Because it’s so expensive, I fear that fewer people will get the treatment that they need.”
In the initial budget released this past summer, the North Carolina House of Representatives voted to eliminate funding for the three centers and instead provide $10 million to local facilities for community services.
Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, senior chairman of the Appropriations Committee, led the charge to maintain the state- facilities.
“There was some concern among some in the General Assembly about the overall cost of the treatment received in these facilities as opposed to what the cost would be for outpatient treatment in various communities around the state,” Dollar said.
“The challenge is that these particular centers–there’s three of them in the state–treat individuals who not only have drug addiction but have other medical or mental health issues as well,” Dollar said. “For example you could have a pregnant woman who is addicted to crack-cocaine, which becomes a very complex medical and addiction issue, that would require hospital level care in addition to working with the patient on their addiction issues.”
Julie Henry, assistant communications director for the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, said the state Alcohol and Drug Addiction Treatment Centers are a “critical part of the continuum of substance abuse treatment in our state.”
Henry also said treatment centers are necessary for complicated medical detoxification, inpatient psychiatric stabilization or repeated failures at community treatment attempts.
“Most patients currently served by treatment centers have complicated co-occurring diagnoses such as major depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder,” Henry said. “On average, 87 percent of individuals admitted to the treatment centers are indigent and have no type of insurance. Of the 13 percent that have some insurance, 8 percent have Medicare.”
Gov. McCrory’s recommended budget fully funded the three treatment centers, Henry said.