Why are Substance Abuse Treatment programs 28 days.

I often have families ask me, “How long is my loved one going to need to be in treatment”? Families always want to know how long it will take their loved one to “get better”. The interesting thing is that despite the fact that most programs are 28 days, all the research shows that the ideal length of time is six to nine months. The idea is that during this time the client would transition into a less restrictive level of care as time progresses. So if that is what the research tells us than why are programs 28 days?

The answer is that the length of treatment was influenced by what the insurance companies were willing to pay or should I say not willing to pay. The average client that does have insurance coverage has approximately 28 days for the entire calendar year (if they are lucky). Many of them have only one inpatient stay a lifetime. This becomes very difficult considering the average rehab client has been in rehab more than once and often times it takes more than one try for them to really get into a recovery based lifestyle.

Many programs provide partial scholarships to assist families, but even with that many families still can’t afford treatment. I have often wondered if insurance companies covered longer periods of time in rehab if the need for repeat visits to rehab would be as common. Based on the research, it would make sense that longer stays in rehab would yield more positive outcomes.

Although, I have been focusing on the insurance companies that cover 28 days, there are many people with health insurance who have no substance abuse treatment coverage. I am not sure how this is the case considering it is a disease just like any other disease. I guess 28 days is better than nothing, but we still have a long way to go. Have you found yourself frustrated with the limitations of your substance abuse coverage? Did you feel like you were backed into a corner and that your hands were tied? Has anyone challenged the insurance company and won??

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