The new federal health care law eventually could have a significant impact on helping people get treatment for substance abuse and mental illness by providing new benefits, says Rob Morrison of the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors (NASADAD). Morrison, speaking yesterday to a conference of the International Community Corrections Association in Washington, D.C., cautioned that it could take several years for the full benefits of the law to kick in, as the Department of Health and Human Services draft regulations to implement it.
The potential impact of the new law can perhaps best be seen by studying what happened in recent years Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts, whose health-care laws are closest to the one signed by President Obama yesterday, Morrison said. After more benefits were made available for substance abuse treatment in Maine, the number of annual admissions rose about 50 percent, from 14356 to 18951 between 1999 and 2008. The number receiving alcohol or drug treament in Vermont rose from 4388 to 9146 between 1998 and 2007. Morrison said that while the number of uninsured people dropped under the law state laws, many were still without health insurance if, for example, they increased alcohol or drug use or were incarcerated.