SUBSTANCE ABUSE: State Can Do More For Youths, Report Says
"Thousands of California children and adolescents" go without adequate treatment for addiction because the state has "no comprehensive system in place to meet" their needs, according to "a draft report" submitted to the state Legislature. The Sacramento Bee reports that children's advocates said that "a new plan to bridge some of that gap through the new Healthy Families insurance program falls woefully short." The report, prepared by the state Department of Health Services, states, "At this time, there is no statewide comprehensive county system of treatment ... to meet the capacity needs of this gap." Only 4% of the patients now served "by the state Alcohol and Drug Program are youths," the report found. The findings will first be submitted to the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board, which will oversee the new Healthy Families program.
The Bee notes that Healthy Families "would pay for treatment that includes hospital detoxification and up to 20 outpatient visits with a counselor." MRMIB Deputy Director Peter Anderson pointed out that this benefits level "exceeds the California Public Employees Retirement System benefit, which offers detoxification and 15 outpatient visits." However, critics maintained that this coverage level is "inadequate." Sacramento County Alcohol and Drug Program Administrator Toni Moore said, "For some individuals, if they have a less severe need, then outpatient services may be very appropriate. But if you are talking about an adolescent who is clearly chemically dependent, then they need day treatment and a residential program." Nancy Young, who heads Irvine-based Children and Family Futures, "added that children who will qualify for Healthy Families may have very different needs from those covered" under CalPERS. Young noted that "children eligible for Healthy Families will come from families with lower incomes," meaning that they "may have bigger educational challenges" or come from families where one or both parents "abuse drugs or alcohol." She said, "You can't have a kid come into treatment and say simply, 'Don't use drugs and alcohol and everything is going to be OK.' Other issues have to be addressed."
Others say the state's estimate of how many youths will need the substance abuse services is too low. State officials "estimate that out of 201,000 adolescents eligible for Healthy Families, about 16,500 might need drug and alcohol treatment," the Bee reports. But California Association of Alcohol and Drug Program Executives President Al Senella said, "I just don't buy it. The single biggest concern among households today is substance abuse" (Griffith, 3/24).