Palm Beach County is the drug treatment capital of America, if not the world. For the past several months there have been daily reports of deaths and overdoses. Some argue that the threat posed by terrorism pales in comparison to the threat posed by the opioid crisis
That being said, former Florida Governor Rick Scott, has recently declared a State of Emergency, reportedly giving the State access to $27 million in Federal funds. Some have argued that we should use the money to make more “county” beds available to treat addicts, perhaps we should consider re-opening facilities such as the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Drug Farm. While county facilities should be granted access to the funds, I submit that the private sector, despite arrests for insurance fraud and patient brokering, is the solution, there are beds available immediately, and the will and knowledge to treat patients.
When it comes to the private sector successfully working in partnership with Government to solve a community issue, look no further than the pre-school industry. For close to twenty (20) years my parents successfully owned and operated a chain of pre-schools, all regulated and licensed by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCF), which also regulates and licenses drug treatment facilities in Florida. My parents were responsible for educating thousands of children in Palm Beach County, but after the crash of 2008, they almost lost everything, many families finding themselves unable to afford pre-school. The business was saved when the State and County stepped in and subsidized tuition so children could go to school, their families paying the remaining balance based on income. While tuition payments were always one (1) month in arrears, they were always paid
It takes seven (7) to ten (10) days to detox an individual who is addicted to drugs and alcohol before treatment can begin. Even when insurance coverage is available to pay for treatment, many treatment centers complain that insurance will only pay for thirty (30) days of treatment, hardly enough to cure someone who’s been addicted to drugs and alcohol for many years, and who may also have a co-occurring mental health disorder. What happens when there is no insurance coverage or cash pay available?
Treatment must be available to everyone, regardless of insurance and financial status, this is my plan to accomplish this goal: First, the emergency funds need to be made available to private “for profit” treatment centers. A list needs to be compiled of all treatment centers which would be good candidates to accept government subsidized patients. Centers with significant disciplinary issues, or where there has been insurance fraud, may not be good candidates.
Second, of the eligible centers, a list needs to be compiled of those that will accept patients at a reduced payment rate, knowing that payment is guaranteed (which is better than having to fight with an insurance company and still having to take less money), should be an incentive
Third, where there is insurance coverage, we need to know how much the carrier is willing to pay to make up the difference between the subsidy and what the treatment center will accept as payment. Where there is no insurance coverage or cash pay funds available, treatment centers can choose to accept the subsidy as the sole source of payment or not take the patient.
Fourth, before an addict dies or ends up in the criminal justice system, we need to educate the public about the Marchman Act and why individuals need to be “leveraged” into treatment. When appropriate, tax Dollars already compensate the Office of Regional Counsel to represent Respondents in Marchman Act proceedings. Petitioners need the same access to legal representation and where they qualify, access to free legal counsel that is compensated for their time from the emergency funds.
Fifth, Marchman Act hearings need to be conducted on a more frequent basis, once a week, as is the norm in many counties, is insufficient. There are many lawyers ready, willing and able to serve as Magistrates and/or retired Judges who could review and hear Marchman Act petitions. Let’s use the emergency funds to compensate these professionals.
Finally, we need to make sure that treatment Dollars go further, buying more time in treatment. You can’t train for a marathon in thirty (30) days, likewise, you can’t cure addiction in thirty (30) days either. Our clients tell us that anything less than sixty (60) days is a waste, ninety (90) is preferable, one hundred and eight (180) is great, after which time they can step down the rate and intensity of treatment.
This is just one of many ways that the opioid crisis must be addressed. However, we must remember that this battle is more akin to a marathon than a sprint, it will take time and a massive community effort.
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