When Murrieta, California-based A Better Tomorrow launched a consumer-financing program this past summer for individuals seeking treatment for drug, alcohol, and gambling addictions, its potential client base increased by more than 50%. Backed by private investors from the medical financing industry, A Better Tomorrow offers clients with good credit histories the ability to pay for their residential treatment for as little as $300 or $400 a month.
Such financing, of course, practically is unheard of in the addiction treatment business. Individuals with serious drug, alcohol, or gambling addictions are considered high-risk clients, so most private clinics do not offer them financing to cover their cost of treatment.
Yet A Better Tomorrow discovered that families often can pool their resources to help loved ones obtain the treatment they need. While an addict may have a poor credit history, one or more of his/her family members usually do have good credit histories and the ability to co-sign loans on the addict's behalf. In fact, loans can be structured to involve multiple family members.
A Better Tomorrow has structured its financing programs so that no payments are required for the first six months. This gives a client time to complete the treatment program, obtain a job, and get back on his feet before it's time to start repaying the loan. The concept is working so well that A Better Tomorrow's owners are considering developing a similar financing program that could be made available to other rehabilitation centers across the country.
A Better Tomorrow's financing program was developed by Paul Howarth, CEO of Forterus, Inc., which acquired A Better Tomorrow in August. Howarth co-founded A Better Tomorrow with other investors four years ago. Forterus believes that consumer financing programs are worthwhile because they can help addicts and their families pay for everything from professional interventions to residential treatment programs that they may not otherwise be able to afford.
The financial challenges facing America's drug and alcohol addicts are well documented. A 2006 SAMHSA survey found that 45% of addicts were unable to afford treatment for their addictions. And while most major insurers do cover addiction treatment as part of their mental health coverage, many are reducing the amount of their coverage, thereby shifting more and more of the financial burden to their members. This makes it that much more imperative that individuals needing help have a way to finance their treatment.
What other options do America's addicts really have? If they can't afford treatment in a private clinic, their only option is a government or nonprofit treatment program, but space in those often is limited. As a result, addicts have to wait for several months or a year or longer to begin treatment in these programs. And many families are uncomfortable with the idea of sending their loved ones to government-funded clinics that primarily serve individuals ordered into treatment after committing a crime.
Consumer financing for addiction treatment also is needed because of the enormity of the problem. Nearly one in ten Americans has a family member who suffers from a drug or alcohol addiction, according to SAMHSA. In addition, 6.1% of Americans took prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes in 2004. Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh and the late Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist are among the better-known individuals who have suffered from this type of addiction. Nearly one-third of A Better Tomorrow's clients are seeking treatment for addiction to prescription medications.
A Better Tomorrow also is seeing increasing numbers of clients with multiple addictions, such as alcoholism or drug use paired with a gambling addiction. Without a consumer financing program, many of these people would have no easy way of obtaining treatment for their addictions. From this standpoint, A Better Tomorrow believes that providing financing for drug and alcohol treatment is really a public service because it moves addicts off the streets and into treatment programs.
Jerrod Menz is President of Murrieta, California-based A Better Tomorrow, Inc., a subsidiary of Forterus, Inc.
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Behavioral Healthcare 2009 January;29(1):36