How Accessible is Treatment for Teens?

Parents of teens struggle to find help for drug overdoses, facing limited availability and affordability of treatment facilities, exacerbating a crisis.

In a recent article by UCLA Health, they reported the difficulty that parents of teenagers are having getting help for drug overdoses. The researchers posed as parents who needed help for their teens with opioid overdoses. The results that they discovered were extremely upsetting in that they found that many facilities that provide drug and alcohol services had little availability of services.

Some quotes from the UCLA article are as follows:

As overdose deaths continue to increase among American teens, treatment for opioid use disorder remains limited. A new study shows that one intervention – inpatient treatment – is inaccessible to many. Few facilities exist nationwide, and they are often unaffordable for families whose children are struggling with opioid addiction. Families must navigate a complex web of addiction treatment services as they try to avoid another overdose for their children, the study found.

Researchers called 160 treatment addiction facilities listed in the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration treatment locator in December 2022. Using a “secret-shopper” approach, the researchers presented themselves as the aunt or uncle of a 16-year-old who had a recent nonfatal overdose of fentanyl and asked about treatment options and costs. They learned how difficult it was for parents in these scenarios to find these kinds of interventions.

Researchers found centers for adolescents had long waitlists, with an average wait to get a bed of about a month. The wait tended to be longer for more affordable public facilities than for pricier private centers. The average cost was $878 per day and an average upfront cost of $28,731.

I know from our own experienced at Lakeside that getting treatment for drug addiction and for serious mental health issues has become increasingly difficult. We are not sensing that there are changes on the horizon that will improve the availability of treatment which means that our teenagers will not be supported for essential treatment. This is not only a crisis for the teens but for their parents. In addition, schools and programs for students who have special needs also are unable to provide resources that are required to help teenagers who have addictions.

This crisis seems to be escalating with impact that will leave legacies of serious consequences affecting thousands of teenagers that are in need of help and support. What will happen to them if we do not provide the help they need in these dire circumstances? We all need to advocate for funding, support and a community response to this vital need. This crisis will only escalate if we do not get some intentional and effective support.

One Comment

  1. Frederick Hagan

    The crisis reflects the collective priorities of the society rather than a lack of resources. It’s sad to say, there’s a trend towards consolidation and once inpatient treatment facilities have been transformed to adult treatment facilities. I once asked an executive why this trend. His answer was simple, “kids are tough!” He didn’t need to elaborate. There’s no extra compensation for choosing to tackle all the challenges associated with teens – parents, schools, developmental issues etc.

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