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WV Drug Courts, Treatment: Obamacare Will Fund More, But Who Will Do It?

The Rev. James Patterson with the Partnership of African-American Churches says the state's drug courts and the Affordable Care Act should combine to help get more West Virginians who need it into drug treatment. The question, he says, is if there are enough people to help them with their recovery. PHOTO by Dan Heyman.
The Rev. James Patterson with the Partnership of African-American Churches says the state's drug courts and the Affordable Care Act should combine to help get more West Virginians who need it into drug treatment. The question, he says, is if there are enough people to help them with their recovery. PHOTO by Dan Heyman.
September 30, 2013

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Two recent reforms should add up to drug treatment for West Virginians who desperately need it, but the question is, are there enough people to help them with their recovery? The drug courts coming to every county will push more people with substance-abuse problems into treatment. And Obamacare will require insurance plans to cover much of the cost.

Rob McKinney, counsel to the Division of Probation Services of the West Virginia Supreme Court, is helping set up the drug courts. He said the Affordable Care Act (ACA) funding offers a lot of promise. However, he added, it's still a question if there will be enough treatment slots for the people who need them.

"I am hoping that the ACA can be part of providing those services to people who need them. And I am hoping that if the funding's available, people who can provide those services would also be more available," McKinney said.

One potential solution is to open up who is allowed to do some kinds of drug treatment. The Rev. James Patterson, executive director of the Partnership of African-American Churches, has been looking at the issue for a legislative committee. He said they are considering letting licensed social workers do more, and another option is training folks who have wrestled with their own addiction to help their peers. Patterson said that might be especially useful for people coming out of intensive in-patient treatment at a residential facility.

"What happens after that? There's a whole community of folk who are recovering. The person who has lived experience and training is the one who's providing the support services," Patterson said.

The state is moving toward having a system for training and licensing peer-recovery coaches, Patterson noted. When that is in place, he said, it should mean they have a better chance of getting paid.

"Once we have a significant pool of people who are certified, then we can go to the funding folks and say, 'Look, they've been tested, they've passed the exam, they're qualified from the state's perspective,'" Patterson explained.

By one count, the state has more than 150,000 people awaiting treatment, but only 220 in-patient treatment beds.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV