When we finally realized we needed help for our son, we didn’t expect it to be so difficult to find

Because addiction treatment is separate from the rest of the health care system, finding quality treatment can be challenging.

By Pattie Vargas

A parent who is searching for some kind of “rehab” or “treatment” doesn’t know what they don’t know. The providers that pop up in a Google search are the ones who can pay for search engine optimization and a robust online presence – not necessarily the best option. The terror of having a child in crisis led us to choose the first one who answered the phone, seemed to know what they were talking about, demonstrated empathy, could send an interventionist and transport him to treatment the minute he said yes. We were worried about the cost and where we would get the money, but, at that moment, we were more worried about losing him for good.

After 30 days, he was physically detoxed, but his brain was still addicted. We could see it in his thought processes and in his inability to make a plan moving forward. But when we asked this gold-plated, award-winning service provider for advice on the next steps, it felt like one of those infomercials where you can’t really see the product until you fork over your credit card. When they learned we were tapped out, they handed us a printed list of sober homes and said, “good luck.” You don’t know what you don’t know. We naively thought he would be all fixed in 30 days, and these experts never clued us in that it wouldn’t be that easy.

It would be helpful if the journey to find help wasn’t marked by wrong information, stigmatizing opinions, predatory service providers and an uneducated medical community.

The Problem

Historically, addiction treatment has been separated from the mainstream health care system. As a result, most health care providers do not receive training on addiction or its treatment, and addiction treatment is not well regulated or held to the same quality standards as treatment for other health conditions. Unable to turn to their trusted health care providers for information, treatment, or referrals, many families search the internet to find help. Due to lack of oversight and quality standards, some treatment providers do not offer quality care – some are fraudulent, while others simply provide care that is insufficient in length, lacking in treatment options, overly costly, or not in line with best practices.

The Solution

Addiction treatment should be offered in the community alongside other health care services and easily accessible. Health care providers should be trained to recognize and diagnose addiction and to be able to treat addiction or refer patients to appropriate services, just as they would for any other health condition. Regulatory oversight of treatment programs should be strengthened, and addiction programs should be required to provide evidence-based care.

Take Action

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Tell your members of Congress to support CARA 3.0

CARA 3.0 is a comprehensive bill that includes provisions that would fund training for health care professionals on how to identify and treat addiction or refer patients to treatment, increase the availability of evidence-based treatment, and provide funding to build connections between treatment programs and other recovery supports to support long-term recovery.