Community-Based Addiction Centers Help Users and the Economy

By Briana Vannozzi

“I was using for a long, long time and this isn’t just a six month fix,” said Ames Morris.

After 35 years of using heroin, Morris found that fix thanks to a community-based addiction center — the Rescue Mission of Trenton.

“It was the environment, it was the help that was there for me. Just everything,” he said.

Success stories, like Morris’, are what service agencies point to when highlighting their efforts to make a dent in the growing addiction and mental health illness.

“We have saved billions of dollars over the years for the state besides providing some really quality care for individuals and giving them an environment and lifestyle that is much better than a state psychiatric hospital,” CEO of Ocean Mental Health Services James Cooney said.

For example, New Jersey supported six state psychiatric hospitals, housing more than 20,000 people in the 1970s. Today the state operates four facilities with less than 2,500 people. Debra Wentz, President and CEO of the NJ Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, says that adds up.

“The cost of health care in a state psychiatric hospital for one person for one year costs about $241,000, while one year of community-based services costs only $1,140,” she said.

And to prove these nonprofit agencies are worth their weight in salt — or at least the $100 million the governor is pledging — they issued new economic data through the Rutgers Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy.

It shows that nonprofit and community-based mental health centers create 60,000 jobs, equating to $2.7 billion in wages and contributing $3.1 billion to the state economy with $146 million to local government revenues.

These community-based agencies service what health care providers call, “super users”. People who account for more than 50 percent of medicaid costs, even though they only make up five percent percent of that population.

And the data shows for every one dollar invested in treatment for alcohol and drug addictions, between $7 and $12 are saved in other health care costs. Community agencies are also concerned about the new fee for service rates used by the state, particularly for outpatient services and prescribers.

“While the rates have increased the contracts dollars have been removed, therefore we have to make those contract dollars up in order to break even. What were looking at is some of those rate might be really kind of  inadiquate,” Cooney stated.

Which is not what they want to see, just as they’re making headway showing people in need the way out.

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