A price tag on life? Rehab for drug and alcohol addiction can be financially damaging
Rob Ford told media that rehab might end up costing him $100,000. People may balk at the price of addiction treatment but what is the cost of not getting help?
As Jamie Q. lay in a hospital bed suffering from pancreatitis, the nurse asked his former wife if he drank.
“He may have a beer or two,” she answered.
The last words that Jamie said before he fell unconscious were: “I drink a 40 a day.”
After awakening from a two-month coma in 2000, he stopped drinking for 18 months. But then he started again — he didn’t know how to live without it.
After several treatment attempts — including a $6,500 28-day residential program — finally in 2010, his family used their savings, sold his motorcycle, refinanced their home and fundraised in their Nova Scotia community to send Jamie to Orchard Recovery Center in B.C.
For a six-month stay, with the cost of flights, lost wages and treatment fees, it cost the family almost $65,000.
Drug and alcohol addiction inflicts untold financial damage on families and the price of recovery can be steep as well. People don’t budget for treatment centres, but when they or their loved ones reach a crisis point, they need specialized care.
Rob Ford, the mayor of Toronto, told media that he was seeking help at a rehab facility that might end up costing him $100,000. He didn’t elaborate on the fees but treatment centres range in price, depending on the location and length of stay.
For example, Passages Malibu in California, a $15-million mansion overlooking the Pacific Ocean, reportedly costs $88,500 a month and has hosted the likes of Mel Gibson and Marc Jacobs. By comparison, Hazelden and the Betty Ford Centre offers residential rehab services from $20,000 to $32,000.
Residential programs in Canada cost slightly less. The 30-day program at Ledgehill Treatment and Recovery Centre in Annapolis County, N.S., costs $12,950. Bellwood Health Services in Toronto is $17,339 for a 4.5-week program (this includes family programming and one-year of aftercare for patients). Homewood Health Centre in Guelph costs $330 a day for a private bed or $280 for a semi-private bed and addiction programs generally last 35 days.
People may balk at these price tags but what is the cost of not getting help?
In 2002, the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse measured alcohol abuse’s affect on health care, law enforcement and work/home productivity and estimated that it accounted for an overall social cost of $14.6-billion; illegal drugs accounted for about $8.2-billion.
“In a lot of cases, addiction untreated is progressive and can be fatal,” Lorinda Strang, executive director of Orchard Recovery Center on Bowen Island, said. “If you’re looking at a cost benefit analysis, if you’ve had a DUI, your legal fees, how much are those going to cost you? If you’re going to lose your job, how much is that going to cost you? How much does a divorce cost you?”
At Orchard Recovery Center, a former resort located on four acres of rain forest, the residential program costs $279 per day if you stay for more than 90 days. It costs $19,100 for its 42-day program, $14,000 for its 28-day program and $6,500 for its 10-day program (Prices from 2014).
The price includes meals, accommodation, seminars, group therapy, yoga classes, a counsellor, a 12-step coach and access to nurses, doctors and a psychiatrist. The centre only accepts 25 clients at a time and has a waiting list of up to two weeks.
Other associated costs include lost wages, travel, prescription medicine and extra services such as massage or acupuncture.
Jamie, who asked that his last name be withheld, is 52-years-old, has two children and works in public service. During his time at Orchard Recovery Center, he was first on Employment Insurance and then received 70% of his income through his workplace long-term disability benefits. At home, his current wife, Leah, continued to work and raise money.
“All of my friends wanted to help in some way so they suggested we do a booster night — it’s like a live auction at a bar,” Leah said. “We got a few good things to raffle off. Anyone who was a friend helped out with making baskets. We made almost $3,000.”
People pay for treatment in different ways, Ms. Strang says. “We have people who will take out a loan. We’ve had people who’ve gone to their family members…We’ve had people whose employers loan them the money. We’ve had some people who’ve gotten money back from some insurance.”
Some employee workplace programs will also provide funding for rehab through supplementary health insurance coverage. Lending companies such as Medicard and Crelogix may provide you with upfront funds for care.
In B.C., if you are on social assistance, you can attend a government-funded treatment centre at no cost; but there is a considerable waiting list. If you are not on social assistance, you can still attend a government-funded facility as a self-paid client for about $125 to $250 a day, Ms. Strang says.
In Ontario, the province will cover your treatment at some facilities or subsidize a ward bed; however, if you want a private room, in many cases, you’ll have to pay for it.
Julie Bowles at Bellwood Health Services suggests that people look at the quality of treatment rather than the price when comparing facilities: Is there 24-hour medical care? What are the qualifications of the treatment staff and is there a multi-disciplinary team? Is there continuing care or aftercare?”
Before seeking the residential treatment route, take a look at other available resources.
Local Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous groups offer resources and meetings for addicts and their family members at no cost.
You can also pay for your own counseling, which could be up to $250 an hour; group counseling is cheaper at $60 to $80. See if you have coverage for psychotherapy through your employee benefits. Your company may also have an Employee Assistance Program that offers you free access to professional in-person or over the phone counseling (check with your Human Resources representative).
Also note that you can claim your medical expenses for a tax credit (expenses in a 12-month period in excess of $2,152 for 2013 or 3% of your net income).
You may also get a referral for a psychiatrist from your doctor, however, the waiting list to see one may be long.
If you need help planning for the costs of care, consider visiting a financial advisor who could help you look at your money from a big picture standpoint.
Jamie and his wife are still paying back their debts.
“My husband is still alive and he’s three and a half years sober. He knows his grandkids now. You can’t put a price on life,” Leah says. “If anyone found out that their significant other had cancer and that they had to go away and get treatment for it, they’d do whatever they had to to get it. Alcoholism is exactly the same and our government doesn’t offer enough within the healthcare system to give them the treatment that they need.
“Anything in life worth fighting for is worth paying for.”
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