Free Rehab Centers
Many facilities offer free services or sliding scale fees, but they may not advertise that they offer these. Additionally, these facilities may have long waiting lists, and potential patients may have to provide proof of economic need. While the cost of rehab can be a barrier for some, treatment provides patients with the opportunity to find success in their pursuit of sobriety.
People addicted to drugs or alcohol can spend large amounts of time, money, and energy on their addiction, and the expenses of drug or alcohol abuse or addiction can add up quickly. As more and more money goes toward supporting drug or alcohol addiction, people often find they have fewer dollars to spend on necessities like housing, food, clothing, and gas.
While many addiction treatment programs come with a hefty price tag, there are also low-cost or free rehab options that may help cover the expense.
The Need for Rehab
There are millions of people struggling with the problem of how to pay for addiction treatment. According to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in 2011 19.3 million people 12 and older needed but did not receive treatment.1 Of those people, 37.3% did not receive treatment because of not having health insurance.1 Additionally, 10.1% had insurance, but it did not cover the cost of rehab.1
In some cases, individuals unable to meet the costs of treatment may be able to find help from rehab facilities willing to offer addiction treatment services for free.
In 2017, an estimated 20.7 million people 12 and older needed substance use disorder (SUD) treatment, but only 4 million (19%) received that treatment.2 Each person’s situation is different and everyone has a reason for either seeking or not seeking treatment for drug or alcohol addiction. One of the most common obstacles is cost. In some cases, individuals unable to meet the costs of treatment may be able to find help from rehab facilities willing to offer addiction treatment services for free.
Finding Affordable Rehab
There are a variety of options available to help cover the cost of treatment. These include the following:
- State and locally funded addiction treatment programs.
- SAMHSA grants.
- Medicare and Medicaid.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
- The Affordable Care Act.
To determine how many addiction rehab facilities offer free services, SAMHSA performed a national survey in 2018 to which 14,809 facilities across the country responded. Of those that responded, 45% reported that they provided free or minimal payment treatment for people who could not afford rehab. Almost one quarter of these rehabs were private, for-profit facilities.3
Additionally, 58% of facilities reported that they offer a sliding fee scale, which means people are able to pay however much they could afford.3 While not all addiction rehab facilities are able to offer services for free, free and low-cost options do exist.
State-funded drug treatment centers use government-provided funds, distributed by the state, to provide support to people in recovery from alcohol or drug addiction. There are a number of resources to help find state-funded rehab programs. The Directory of Single State Agencies (SSAs) for Substance Abuse Services provides contact information for each state’s agency governing substance abuse policy, funding, and services. Contacting a specific state agency could be the best way to find out more about what that state offers, and how to go about obtaining those services.
If a person can provide proof of economic need, free or subsidized help may often be available.
Another good way to search for treatment facilities near you is through SAMHSA’s treatment locator. This interactive page enables a visual search of state and municipality centers as well as other regional treatment resources. It allows site visitors to narrow their options based on location by using a physical address, which is then completely deleted from the system following the search.\
Although 45% of addiction rehab facilities offered free services in 2018, most treatment centers don’t publicly advertise that they offer free services. Individuals who are interested in finding free or low-cost drug or alcohol addiction treatment can ask their doctor or therapist for recommendations of facilities to contact. If a person can provide proof of economic need, free or subsidized help may often be available.
Questions to Ask
Before you agree to enter an addiction treatment program, you will need to know exactly how much you will be required to pay. These questions for the rehab facility can help you get the answers you need:
- Do you provide assistance to people who do not have insurance?
- Do you provide assistance to people in financial distress?
- Does your facility provide a sliding scale of fees?
- Has your facility provided free services in the past?
Questions like these may feel intrusive to ask, but it is best to get answers to questions about cost and payment before starting an addiction program. The rehab facility will know that you require free services, and you will know whether or not the facility will be able to help meet your financial needs.
Things to Consider
Places that provide free addiction rehab services can be popular and in demand, and some free facilities might have long waitlists. Keep in mind that the sooner a person gets into addiction treatment, the better their outcome can be.
After an intervention from friends or family or a discussion with a doctor, a person might be motivated to change their life and get the help they need to live drug free. Waiting for weeks or months for a space to open up could take away their motivation when they need it most.
Long wait times are one of the most common barriers to seeking drug treatment. When people have to wait longer to enter treatment, they are more likely to drop out and not complete treatment. Studies show that individuals who drop out are much more likely to relapse.4
It is important that people addicted to drugs or alcohol get into rehab as quickly as possible after they have made the decision to seek treatment. If there is a long waitlist, a person does not have control over when they will enter treatment.5 If a person can be patient and keep addiction treatment as a top priority, this can be key to recovery success.
Individuals can also enroll for public insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA covers services that treat substance use disorders. In order to receive this coverage, a person must buy insurance through the online health insurance exchanges for their state of residence. There are open enrollment periods throughout the year to sign up for health insurance. People can also call their existing insurance provider to see if treatment for substance use disorders is covered.
Is Rehab Worth the Cost?
Challenges with financing, payments, and health insurance can make a person considering addiction treatment wonder if it is worth the cost and effort. According to the National Institutes of Health, addiction treatment provides a 7:1 return on cost.6 Not only can treatment lead to a substance-free life, it can improve personal health and relationships, and reduce public health and safety risks.7
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2014). The TEDS Report: Health Insurance Status of Adult Substance Abuse Treatment Admissions Aged 26 or Older: 2011.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2018). Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2019). National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (N-SSATS): 2018.
- Brorson, H.H., Arnevik, A.E., Rand-Hendriksen, K., Duckert, F. (2013). Drop-out from addiction treatment: a systematic review of six factors. Clin Psychol Rev, 33(8), 1010-1024.
- Andrews, C.M., Shin, H.C., Marsh, J.C., Cao, D. (2013). Client and program characteristics associated with wait time to substance abuse treatment entry. Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse, 39(1), 61-68.
- White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. (2012). Cost Benefits of Investing Early in Substance Abuse Treatment.
- McLellan, A.T., Woody, G.E., Metzger, D. (1996). Evaluating the effectiveness of addiction treatments: Reasonable expectations, appropriate comparisons. Milbank Quarterly, 74(1), 51-85.