Polk County, Iowa’s addiction treatment program has decreased by more than three-quarters and is now struggling to survive. Leaders of the Bridges of Iowa program, which has been called an “innovative way to respond to drug-related crime,” is blaming a lack of Medicaid funding for its current woes.
Medicaid Covers Addiction Counseling for Offenders
Medicaid is the public health-care plan that covers low-income state residents. Inmates who are sentenced to jail for crimes linked to addiction, such as theft, are also covered under Medicaid. Organizers at the Bridges of Iowa program have said they been unable to collect more than a fraction of the amount they have billed the public health-care plan for counseling and other services for clients involved with the justice system.
Clinical Director Angie Rodberg stated that the Bridges of Iowa (Bridges) program, which at one point served up to 150 people, was reduced to only 23 clients by early February.
Funding Rehab Programs Can Present a Challenge
The Bridges program has been helping clients in a separate part of the jail from the one housing inmates since 2012. Most of the program’s participants enter the program once they are released from jail on probation; one of the conditions they are required to meet is that they comply with the Bridges treatment program.
Program organizers said their main financial difficulty is that the private companies in charge of running the state’s Medicaid program have not provided reliable payments for therapy sessions. The leaders, who have become frustrated by the situation, have basically given up trying to bill Medicaid for services. Dozens of employees have been laid off, and the program is now relying on private donations to provide a reduced level of support to help clients get their life back on track following an arrest for addiction-related crime.
System Has Become a Tragedy
Ms. Connolly mentioned the opioid epidemic has been discussed at length in the press, and that it’s an issue that politicians have been saying needs to be solved. She said, “We know there’s a crisis — the state recognizes that — but they’re not fulfilling their obligations.” She went on to say that the whole system has become a tragedy.