“What else can I do? Oh my God, it’s going to be too late for me, I’m going to get sent right back to where I’ve used for 10 years.”
These are the words of Susan, a 32- year-old, single mother who has struggled with addiction to heroin, fentanyl and crack cocaine, all stemming from prescription drug use. Now, for the first time in her life, she is seriously trying to find addiction treatment to save her own life and in turn, be able to raise the son who was taken away from her just months ago.
Susan resides in a Democratic state where she could qualify for Medicaid (the state took the Medicaid expansion provided under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)) and entered a rehabilitation facility. However, she and her treatment team know she must leave that state as it has been home to many of her drug-use triggers if she is to successfully remain clean.
Susan identified a rehabilitation facility in South Carolina where she could go as a single woman for addiction treatment and even bring her child with her for parenting skill support.
Perfect, right? Wrong.
Republican-controlled South Carolina refused to take the ACA’s Medicaid expansion funding, so she will not qualify for Medicaid as a single adult fighting addiction. Had she not lost guardianship of her child, she MAY have qualified for Medicaid, but the requirements are many and they put into question whether she could obtain the help she desperately needs to save her own life.
“If I can’t get out of this state and start over, I’ll die,” said Susan. She is desperate. Her life, and that of her little son, literally hangs in the balance.
There is much political noise about the opioid crisis in America. Voices from both side of the political aisle proclaim that something must be done. Then why, if we know most addicts need Medicaid to receive the addiction treatment they need, have 14 states refused to accept the federal money allowing them to expand Medicaid, thus denying potentially lifesaving treatment to addicts?
We know there are addicts who are holding down jobs, functioning as best as they can until their addiction drives them to joblessness and without medical coverage. Then, likely, they will seek out various forms of public assistance like food stamps or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to get by.
They will start using the hospital emergency room either to try and feed their addiction (pill seeking) or to get medical care for themselves and their families. They will reach out to charitable organizations for food, assistance with bills, maybe even for shelter once their addiction results in homelessness.
Children will be intertwined in an overburdened foster care system, resulting in a whole host of problems that could impact them into adulthood-potentially breeding another generation of struggling adults with addiction and mental health issues. Have you ever thought about the economics of not securing treatment for those willing to accept it?
This is a national crisis, but for Susan it is her life.
An election is coming and we must secure local and national candidates who understand that their proclamation of wanting to address the opioid epidemic must include a plan to expand Medicaid.
Addicts are our friends, our family, and our neighbors. No one wakes up wanting to be an addict and it makes good economical and human sense to ensure that if someone is willing to save their own life through treatment, that they can do so.
There are 14 states in our country, Republican states, that said “No” to addicts through their cruel policy of denying the Medicaid expansion simply because they hate Obamacare. This is not a policy of life and compassion. This simply insures that the crisis continues at an untold toll of human lives.