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Nationwide a Dearth of Adolescent Treatment
March 2009

As part of its recent major expansion of addiction services, Houston Memorial Hermann’s PaRC center has launched an ambitious adolescent program.In Houston, PaRC Moves to Fill Gap With Big New Program

Houston, just like other places around the nation, is a region that suffers from a dearth of treatment options for adolescents, a client target group that providers often avoid, or drop, due to myriad difficulties that can lead to vastly higher costs. But insurance reimbursements on the adolescent side - in private markets - often make it tough to tackle the particular difficulties of the sector and deliver quality care at the same time. So while on the public side, players like Phoenix House have been rapidly rolling out high quality adolescent capacity, it has not been enough to meet demand caused by an unusually large treatment gap, not to mention ‘make up for capacity lost on the private side in managed care’s wake.

A RWJF funded study released in March found that only about 10 percent of the 1.4 million adolescents needing care are getting it. And SAMHSA data, using the TEDS series, show that the total number of adolescent admissions continues to fall year-after-year, hitting 85 thousand in 2007, off almost eight percent over a four year period.

“Here in Houston we knew there was demand for services because our referral sources were telling us the demand was there,” said Matt Feehery, CEO of Prevention and Recovery Center, PaRC. The substance abuse treatment unit of giant Houston Memorial Hermann health system, PaRC over the past year or so has emerged as one of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive treatment centers as the non-profit hospital parent poured millions of dollars into backing an expansion play pitched and overseen by Feehery.

Overwhelmingly a center that relies on managed care contracts with commercial insurers for its revenues, Feehery, aware of the difficulties and risks, nevertheless decided to open a major adolescent treatment effort as part of the recent expansion.

Jim Williams, Director, Adolescent Program, PaRCFor Feehery it is really a matter of mission more than anything. “The community has a great need for adolescent services and we really have an obligation to step up, says Feehery, who now heads up a center with 200 plus beds offeing a full continuum of care. PaRC’s move into new and newly renovated structures on the Memorial Hermann campus made possible the recent opening of adolescent programs, says Jim Williams, the program’s director, stressing the very strong need in the marketplace for services.

“Here Houston is the fourth largest city in the nation without any adolescent residential capacity to speak of before we came along,” Williams said, adding that with the closing just recently of The Right Step’s small res idential program, PaRC’s role in filling the regional adolescent treatment gap will be even more critical.

PaRC’s plans are relatively ambitious, with almost 70 beds allocated to the program, which Williams says will be filled within a couple of years. But Williams is also not under any illusions about how difficult it will to be to offer high quality treatment. “Taking good care of adolescents is expensive,” says Williams. “And the insurance companies are tightening their belts. Some clearly qualify for residential and just can’t get approved.” JW

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