Don’t Let Youth Substance Abuse Treatment Opportunity Go to Waste

By Holmes, Randolph P. | Pasadena Star-News, August 5, 2018 | Go to article overview

Don’t Let Youth Substance Abuse Treatment Opportunity Go to Waste


Holmes, Randolph P., Pasadena Star-News


In February of 2017, Matthew Maniace, a 20-year old who was addicted to heroin and alcohol, checked into Above It All rehab center in Lake Arrowhead, a non-medical facility that lists first month charges of $43,000. A person who is in detox is in physical danger and must be carefully monitored — ideally, at least every 30 minutes. Matthew was left in his room curled in a fetal position for hours, and, less than 72 hours after he checked in to get a new start on his life, he was cold to the touch — dead.

California embraced implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which created a broad mandate for substance use treatment coverage — but with a crucial lack of corresponding standards. The result was entirely predictable: in addition to many good treatment programs, fraudulent, ineffective, dangerous, and exploitative programs sprang up like mushrooms across the state, particularly in the Southland.

False billing, patient churning and dumping, residential rehab programs rife with substance use, deaths, and a total disregard for the welfare and success of the patients have become an endemic part of Southern California’s well-documented and problem-plagued “Rehab Riviera.”

With the imminent influx of funds from Prop. 64 and other sources, it is urgent that we do a better job. The measure, which legalized marijuana, carries with it the risk of increasing youth substance use disorders. To address that risk, it directs a huge amount of resources to youth substance use disorder prevention, early intervention, and treatment. This money is already being collected, and it will amount to over hundreds of millions of dollars annually ongoing. In addition, next year, millions of dollars of additional funding for youth behavioral health must be spent.

Yet we are poised to make the same mistake we have made time and time again: addressing a complex problem with good intentions and resources, but no roadmap for achieving meaningful, science-based and consistent results. That’s why I’m supporting Senate Bill 275, a measure to create strong standards for youth substance use disorder treatment, prevention, and early intervention. …

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