Central Pennsylvania Facing Addiction Crisis With Limited Funds

By McCarton Ackerman 07/02/15

Many families are unable to afford care for their loved ones.

depressed man.jpg

With the average cost of inpatient drug rehab running $10,000-20,000 per month on average, many families simply can’t afford to foot the bill. But in central Pennsylvania, where addiction is reaching epidemic proportions, neither can cities or counties, leading to a sharp rise in drug-related deaths and addicts simply disappearing.

About 35 deaths last year in Cumberland County were attributed to drug overdoses and that number has already hit 26 in the first half of 2015. But with a severe lack of funds for substance abuse treatment, county officials haven’t been able to pay for a rehab placement since April.

Other areas in central Pennsylvania are also experiencing similar problems. Lancaster burned through its meager substance abuse treatment budget just four months into the 2014-15 fiscal year. Lebanon went $34,000 over its allotted $120,000 budget, but was still tapped out by March.

Despite the rise in deaths and growing need for addiction treatment, the amount of money for substance abuse treatment given to counties by the Pennsylvania Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services has dropped by $15.8 million over the last decade, roughly a 29% drop.

When the money runs out, these counties have referred addicts to outpatient treatment including methadone maintenance or group therapy sessions. Although a medical assistance expansion across the state will pay for treatment for those without insurance, the expansion only applies to those who fall just above the federal poverty line. Those who don’t receive insurance through their employers, yet still make too much money to receive it from the government, are left to fend for themselves.

Gov. Tom Wolff has included additional funds for substance abuse treatment in his proposed budget. Drug and alcohol offices representing 62 of the state’s 67 counties have since applied to the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs for funding that would primarily go towards long-term residential treatment, highlighting the seriousness of the problem.

“A lot of people are being turned away,” said Rick Kastner, executive director of the Lancaster County Drug and Alcohol Commission. “A lot of people are dying.”

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.