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Okla. rehabilitation facilities struggling

Lawton_The number of those addicted to drugs and alcohol is up in Oklahoma.  However, money to help them is down, and there's no quick fix.  Professionals in the field of rehabilitation say the system is broken, and it's not just about funding. 

Insurance problems, mind-numbing paperwork, long waits, and the distance some must travel to get help all contribute to a system that may be failing.  Rehab professionals say they believe there are no easy solutions, and most believe the system probably cannot be completely repaired.  It simply costs too much. 

Taliaferro Mental Health Center Administrator Jim Regan says legislators are working on getting more funding, but they can only do so much.  Rehabilitation and addiction can be a vicious cycle.  When addicts don't get sufficient treatment, they can relapse.  "As individuals go seeking treatment there are very, very few resources in our area, and a lot of time those individuals have to seek the treatment outside," says Regan.

Regan says a lack of state and federal funding, combined with an increase in addicts, has led to a cash-strapped system.  But, it doesn't stop there.  Getting insurance to pay for mental health treatment is another problem.  "That's because the private insurance companies tend to not want to reimburse for mental health and substance abuse treatment," he says. 

Some insurance companies also restrict the number of days a patient can be treated.  Regan says it makes him wonder who decides a patient's course of treatment - a clinician or an insurance company?  He says it all comes down to how much the insurance companies are willing to pay, and the vicious cycle can start again. 

The paperwork can cause headaches as well.  At Taliaferro, there are 22 pages worth of paperwork to complete just to be considered for admission, and an additional ten once a patient is admitted.  But, Regan says they're trying to change that.  "They're working on in trying to reduce the paperwork to just what is needed.  Instead of tying a clinician up in doing paperwork, you've got them out there doing treatment."

In a long line of troubles facing rehab facilities in Oklahoma, another towering problem is location.  If a patient lives in a rural area, they may have to drive up to two hours for state-funded treatment. That travel time could contribute to job loss. 

Taliaferro is state-funded, and hopes are to expand its treatment services.  Currently, there are facilities in Lawton, Duncan, Altus, and Anadarko.

7News Reporter Lindsay Vocht

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