Guest Blog (12&12): Cuts to substance abuse services will mean higher costs and worse outcomes

From time to time, we use the OK Policy blog to post submissions we receive from Oklahomans who have interesting perspectives on important policy issues for the state. This entry is from Valerie Andrews, Chief Financial Officer of 12&12, a Tulsa-based substance abuse treatment provider. The opinions stated below are not necessarily the opinions of OK Policy, its staff, or its board. This blog is a venue to help promote the discussion of ideas from various points of view and we invite your comments and contributions. To see our guidelines for blog submissions, click here.

12&12 is a comprehensive, State licensed (through ODMHSAS) and CARF-accredited substance abuse treatment provider serving Oklahoma for 25 years. The organization provides services to more than 5,000 individuals annually. Services include medically supervised detoxification, residential and co-occurring residential inpatient, transitional living as well as outpatient services.

Cutbacks to state-funded substance abuse treatment services are having a far-reaching impact on all Oklahomans, especially those seeking to overcome addiction.

Reduced services mean that more of our friends, neighbors and loved-ones will have no place to turn when they need help.  The downward spiral of their lives will have untold consequences on them, their families and the communities in which they live.   Unable to access services, they will become more severely ill and increasingly vulnerable to the negative aspects of their disease.

Of course, to say that these individuals will be without any services is a misnomer.  They will be receiving services…just not necessarily the most appropriate or least expensive, and not services that correct the problem.  They’ll be in jail or prison, or engaged in a variety of ways with other state social service agencies (including having their children placed into the foster care system), or further eroding other community resources.

It costs my agency, on average, between $2,800 to $3,000 to provide a person detox and a month’s worth of treatment services.  An overwhelming number of the people we treat return to improved and productive lives.  It would cost the state between $16,000 and $20,000 to take the same person and lock them away for a year…without ever doing anything to fix the underlying problem that brought them to prison in the first place.  It will cost more than $6,000 for a two week stay at a community hospital.  Those costs will most likely not be reimbursed, as many of the individuals we are talking about do not have health insurance or other means to pay, and there will still be a need for additional treatment services.

Cuts to treatment programs do not stem the tide regarding state budget reductions.  They merely shift cost away from one state agency to others, or become added expenditures for county and municipal supported programs.  The cost remains and even grows.

It is difficult to rationalize how these services could ever be viewed as expendable, or as a non-priority, knowing what we know.  It is proven that the immediate benefits of treatment make complete fiscal and moral sense, and provide a future return on investment that is tenfold the initial cost outlay.

These cutbacks could not have come at a worse time for our state.  The volume of applicants for admission into our programs has increased significantly over the past six months.  Many more now, because of our state and national economy, and without jobs or health insurance, have no other means to access care.  Our staff diligently works to find creative ways to admit these applicants and provide services.  And, while we have to this point been able to re-organize departments, eliminate unnecessary expenses, and re-tool processes, there is little room to endure continuing budget reductions without a terrible cost to those seeking our assistance.

The decisions related to funding are tough, and I understand that there are other issues that also deserve attention.  However, for years we have worked to document and validate treatment processes and outcomes, and have time and again proven our worth.

It is fair to say that for most professionals in this line of work, we do what we do because we care.  It is a lifework.  We know what our services mean to so many people, and we know the awful cost of not being able to be there when needed.  Our community has benefited from what we have been able to accomplish up to this point.  Help us to continue to provide these benefits in the future by protecting funding for these services.


Former Executive Director David Blatt joined OK Policy in 2008 and served as its Executive Director from 2010 to 2019. He previously served as Director of Public Policy for Community Action Project of Tulsa County and as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma State Senate. He has a Ph.D. in political science from Cornell University and a B.A. from the University of Alberta. David has been selected as Political Scientist of the Year by the Oklahoma Political Science Association, Local Social Justice Champion by the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice, and Public Citizen of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers.

2 thoughts on “Guest Blog (12&12): Cuts to substance abuse services will mean higher costs and worse outcomes

  1. Not for awhile – although once the uninsured have coverage, the problems of untreated substance abuse problems and uncompensated care may become less severe

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