A glitch in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is threatening outpatient programs for those who are poor and in recovery for alcohol and drugs in Washington.
Under the ACA, the federal government now foots the bill for publicly funded addiction recovery centers. Prior to 2014, the state also chipped in with funding, but that is not the case now and it’s leaving the dozens of addiction recovery centers around Washington scrambling to cover the gap left in their funding.
The Seattle-based nonprofit, Recovery Centers of King County spent $21,000 of its own reserve money in January to cover the difference.
“I was horrified and instantly terrified. How are we going to survive this year?” said CEO Dr. Pat Knox.
“I was anticipating a reduction in fees but I didn’t know the magnitude. When we pulled together the numbers for January my heart dropped. I got a sick feeling in my stomach,” said Norm Redberg, Director of Alcohol Drug Dependency Services in Ellensburg.
For recovering addicts like Emily Scheving of Kent, who is recovering from alcoholism, the outpatient programs at places like the Seattle location of Recovery Centers of King County, where she gets counseling, are very much needed for her recovery.
“The program is important, especially because (they provide) childcare. For a mother it’s really hard to try to work a job and do outpatient and not have childcare. I don’t know what I would do without it,” said Scheving.
Several nonprofits contacted by news outlet KING 5 said if the legislature doesn’t make a budget fix in the next two weeks, outpatient services for thousands of people will be scrapped. It’s so bad that the Recovery Centers of King County is considering selling their Seattle building or closing down one of their two locations altogether.
“It certainly is (a crisis) and no one seems to care at DSHS and the legislature doesn’t know that this is happening,” said Knox.
Top DSHS managers who oversee chemical dependency programs in the state told KING 5 they do care about the service, but that it is out of the Department’s hands and up to the legislature to authorize DSHS to pay the same rates they were paying in the past.
“It’s the legislature’s decision at this point,” said Jane Beyer, Asst. Secretary of Behavioral Health and Service Integration Administration at DSHS. “Our concern needs to be with everyone that needs chemical dependency treatment. We’re doing the best that we can with the resources available to us.”
“Smaller agencies will go out of business. The patients will not go away,” said Knox. “They will be on long waiting lists to receive treatment and they will fill the hospitals and jails. More of them will be living on the streets of Seattle and surrounding neighborhoods as their addiction progresses.”