5 On Your Side Investigates: The cost of heroin treatment

Kicking the habit is often expensive, and unfortunately, out of reach for many users.

Jude Hassan spent 10 years addicted to heroin. Finally, his parents helped him get clean.

"With their love and support and their ability to put me in treatment, that's what helped me overcome my heroin addiction," Hassan said.

The treatment was expensive. Jude said his parents spent tens of thousands of dollars on several rounds of addiction treatment.

Others are less fortunate.

Tina Louden simply did not have the resources to help her daughter Ashley.

"I literally watched her die," Louden said. "I didn't have the money."

Ashley did not have a job, and therefore, no insurance. Louden, who was on disability of insurance, could not put Ashley on her plan. 

Still, Ashley begged her mother to help her find a treatment center. She never got there.

"She couldn't get the help. They turned us away, time after time," Louden said.

On July 4, 2013, Ashley took her last hit of heroin.

On top of the financial roadblocks, there is another issue preventing those with little or no financial resources from getting help: a federal law limiting the number of patients that certain treatment centers can serve. 

"Almost everyone agrees it's not a good law," said Mike Morrison, who works for Preferred Family Healthcare. It's one of the few in-patient detox centers in the St. Louis area that treats people who don't have insurance or can't pay for treatment..

"If you serve Medicaid clients, you can't have more than 16 beds at an address. it's been expanded to even a campus," Morrison said.

Morrison said he and others who treat substance use disorders have voiced concerns to lawmakers, but so far, nobody has addressed the 16-bed limit.

That means people are sitting on wait lists for weeks.

"We get literally hundreds of calls a day, with very little availability. A lot of our staff is consistently telling people, there is no room at the inn," Morrison said. 

Morrison said his employees do their best to keep those patients in the loop, and interested in treatment.

"You'll usually get in. It'll just take a while," he said

Morrison treatment centers need to find creative ways to treat heroin addicts, including more outpatient options.

Meanwhile, Louden hopes the help will one day meet the demand, for the sake of other families.

"I know it this is such a bad epidemic, something's gotta be done. All of our kids are dying," Louden said.


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