Methadone patient lists on the rise

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

Figures for 2009 show the state spent $6.5 million on methadone treatment and $3.3 million on counseling for those receiving the narcotics alternative, The Saginaw News reported Sunday.
Michigan health statistics say the number of opiate addicts who get state-subsidized treatment rose from 8,758 people in 2000 to 19,806 in 2010.
Victory Clinical Services in Saginaw County's Carrollton Township now serves about 280 opiate addicts.
According to Director David Blankenship, his clinic will reach its capacity of 400 patients within a year if the current rate of growth continues.
To get subsidized methadone treatment, an applicant has to be uninsured and earn less than three times the federal poverty level, or an income of $34,107 a year for a single individual in 2010.
About 283,000 Americans get government-funded methadone at a cost to taxpayers of about $1.1 billion per year, according to 2009 data from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
"The alternatives to not taking the methadone ... are also expensive," said Phil Chvojka, a specialist with the Michigan Department of Community Health.
Victory Clinical Services gave out 38,835 doses of methadone and held 2,934 counseling sessions for 200 patients using government resources in 2010, at a total average daily cost per patient of just under $16, said Amy Murawski, director of substance abuse treatment and prevention services for the Saginaw County Department of Public Health.
Officials compare the expense of treatment to that of keeping someone in prison -- a place where many drug addicts end up because of crimes committed to finance their drug habits.
It costs an average of $29,056 per year to house an inmate with the state Department of Corrections, according its website.
In 2009, 1,476 of state's prisoners, or 14.6 percent, were incarcerated for nonviolent drug crimes at a cost of about $42.8 million.
"A lot of times, they committed the crimes as a symptom of their disease, because they were trying to score," Blankenship said.

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