By Sara Schapmann
The decision to get addiction treatment can be life-changing, but it can also be fraught with anxiety over what to expect. Alianna Low and Dina Garcia have experience on the front lines of rehab drug treatment admissions, having taken those often desperate calls for help. As Senior Manager of Admissions and an intake advisor (respectively) for Elements Behavioral Health, a nationwide network of addiction treatment centers, they share their insights about what to expect when you call an addiction treatment center for help.
Whether you’re the individual struggling with drug or alcohol abuse or their loved one, making that first call for addiction treatment can be intimidating. Alianna and Dina say that in their experience, this is what you can usually expect when you call a rehab drug treatment center:
Share Why You’re Calling – A treatment specialist will talk with you about what led you to call. These are compassionate people who usually have personal or professional experience in recovery, or both. “No one is in a good place when they call,” says Alianna. “They’re in crisis. We know [calling] is anxiety-provoking, and we just want to make that connection and help them get the treatment they need.”
Pre-Admissions Assessment – The next step is a pre-admissions assessment, which is a set of questions that determine clinical needs. “We’re not making a final decision about someone’s admission, but we have the tools to identify on the front end if they’re appropriate for treatment,” says Alianna. The assessment their team uses was built by a certified addiction psychiatrist and licensed psychiatric nurse. Its purpose is to determine whether people need inpatient or outpatient treatment, and make sure they don’t need a higher level of care than residential addiction treatment.
Addiction Treatment Matching – After the admissions team understands your needs and preferences, they’ll provide you with a selection of appropriate rehab drug treatment options.
Insurance Benefits Check – If you’re hoping to use insurance to help cover the cost of drug or alcohol rehab, the treatment specialist will gather your insurance information and work directly with your insurance company to determine coverage. “We do a benefits check for them and talk finances, which can sometimes be a barrier to treatment,” says Dina. She adds that even if insurance won’t cover the entire cost of drug rehab, they try to work with each client to make sure finances aren’t an obstacle to getting help for drug or alcohol addiction.
Help With Logistics – Once you’ve decided to attend drug rehab treatment, the admissions team can help you figure out logistics like travel arrangements. They’ll also check in with you regularly until you enter treatment to answer questions and provide support.
Taking a few steps to prepare can help you get admitted to rehab drug treatment quickly. In fact, Alianna and Dina say same-day admissions are sometimes possible. Some of the factors that can delay drug rehab admissions are securing childcare, getting a leave of absence approved from work, and booking travel. Dina explains that in some cases medical records are also required to fulfill clinical need requirements by insurance. The time that takes is dependent on how quickly your physician or behavioral health care professional can produce those documents.
George M. is an example of how quickly admissions can happen. Addicted to prescription painkillers, George had started abusing them after a back injury. He was mixing pills with alcohol and marijuana as well. George was well-liked in the community, had a loving wife and a job as a stockbroker. He’d been slipping at work as his substance abuse spiraled out of control, and was close to losing his job. George’s problems came to a pinnacle when his wife discovered he’d all but drained their savings to buy drugs and alcohol. She confronted him in tears. It was the wake-up call he needed.
With his wife by his side, they made the call to get help. After the pre-assessment, the treatment specialists worked with his insurance company to quickly get the pre-approval necessary that would allow George to enter treatment. He called his supervisor at work and explained he wouldn’t be coming in that day and what was going on. His boss was understanding and hopeful that addiction treatment would bring back the dedicated worker he once knew in George.
With the help of his wife, George quickly got his affairs in order and they drove to the Arizona drug rehab, just a couple hours from their home, late that afternoon. George was in medical detox by that evening and a little over a month later emerged from addiction treatment sober, and with the healthy coping skills he needed to manage triggers and his underlying anxiety without drugs and alcohol.
Sometimes it takes longer from the time people call until they enter treatment. This is usually because the individual isn’t ready to get treatment just yet.
Lindsay R. was a single mother of three who had started abusing alcohol and cocaine after a messy divorce. Deep down, she knew she had a problem, but hesitated to leave her children for inpatient drug rehab. One night her 5-year-old daughter found her passed out on the floor of her bathroom. She thought she was dead. The next morning Lindsay called a rehab, but by that afternoon, she’d changed her mind. She could handle it. She’d done so all these years after all. Alcohol rehab would be an inconvenience.
The treatment specialists called to check in on Lindsay every so often over the next five months. They wanted her to know she had a lifeline. Each time, Lindsay would relay another incident that occurred because of her drug use – DUI, lost job, child custody threats from her ex-husband. She still wasn’t ready to change though.
Right before the holidays, Lindsay called after a particularly bad evening. She rattled off the usual excuses. Leaving her children around the holidays was at the top of the list this time. Dina asked Lindsay to walk her through her day. When Lindsay started talking about it, she realized she wasn’t even leaving the house anymore. Her day revolved around alcohol and whatever drugs she could get from her neighbor. Dina asked her if she felt she was really there for her kids. It was like a lightbulb went off. Lindsay started crying. Her kids weren’t doing well in school, she couldn’t remember the last time they ate a decent meal. When she thought about it, she was barely putting a roof over their heads. She wasn’t taking care of herself, much less her children.
Lindsay decided to enter treatment. She would be gone for the holidays, but she knew they wouldn’t be happy days anyway in her condition. Her mother and ex-husband would take care of the kids while she was gone. She’d be in regular contact with her kids and see them during visitation days and family therapy.
Lindsay did well in drug rehab. She addressed the reasons she’d been using drugs and alcohol to cope and especially benefited from equine therapy and the trauma therapies offered. After inpatient drug rehab, she transitioned into outpatient treatment to ease back into everyday life. Today, she is the supportive, involved mother she always wanted to be and has a job she loves. Lindsay has been sober for over three years.
Entering treatment for drug or alcohol abuse isn’t an easy decision. There will always be reasons to put it off, but addiction is a disease that won’t go away on its own. Alianna and Dina say people shouldn’t be apprehensive about calling because they are embarrassed or ashamed. “You name it, we’ve heard it,” says Alianna. She says that even family members will sometimes be embarrassed that they’ve watched their loved one get to this point. “In reality, it’s usually shocking at how well they’ve been handling the situation up to this point,” she says. “The fact that they’re calling is a huge step, and the right step. We try to help them see that.”
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