Substance abuse is a problem that affects all demographics; however, it’s especially serious among teens and young adults. The 2019 National Survey of Drug Use and Health estimated 916,000 Americans between 12 and 17 years old have a substance use disorder (SUD). And only 6.8% of Americans between 12 and 20 years old who were classified as needing treatment actually received it.1
One of the primary reasons people don’t receive treatment is because they can’t afford it.1 Fortunately, there are government-funded facilities, non-profit rehab programs, and faith-based organizations that offer free or low-cost options for drug and alcohol treatment.
What is Free Rehab?
Free drug and alcohol treatment centers provide drug and alcohol abuse treatment at no cost to the patient. They are available in many areas to people who qualify. Different facilities may have varying eligibility requirements, but their main purpose is to provide rehabilitation treatment for people unable to afford it.
Funding for free rehab centers comes from:2
- Federal mental health block grants.
- Charitable donations.
- State and local funding.
- Medicaid and other government health programs.
Certain facilities also provide scholarships to people who cannot afford treatment so they can address their addiction at a private rehab center.
Free substance use treatment facilities often vary in the levels of care they provide. Some may only offer medical detox (where patients are monitored as they withdraw from drugs or alcohol). Others may provide the full range of treatment, including therapy and medication-assisted treatment at either an outpatient or inpatient facility.
How Do I Find a Free Rehab Center?
The easiest way and fastest way to find a free rehab center is online. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website has a useful tool called the Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator.
Simply type in your city, zip code, or address, and the tool will reveal substance use and mental health service facilities in your area. Clicking “more information” will reveal how funding for a particular facility is provided and whether they offer payment assistance options.
The SAMHSA also has a directory for Single State Agencies (SSA) for Substance Use Services on their website. This contains contact information for state government agencies that may provide rehabilitation services for free or reduced costs.
State and local governments may provide access to low-cost or free substance abuse rehab facilities if individuals meet certain criteria. The eligibility requirements for state-run rehab facilities are often quite strict and may vary between states. Generally, priority is given to people in the most desperate of situations.
The Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant (SABG), which provides funding to all 50 states, specifically targets people who abuse needle-drugs and pregnant women and mothers with dependent children. However, each state has its own process and criteria for treating at-risk populations.3
When Does Treatment Start?
One of the drawbacks of state-funded rehab facilities is that there are often lots of people in need with only a few spots open. This often means patients who are accepted have to be put on a waiting list. Depending on how much demand there is, and the availability the state facility has to accept patients, this may range from several weeks to several months.4
Faith-Based Rehab Programs
Another option for free substance abuse treatment is faith-based rehabilitation programs. Faith-based programs emphasize religion or spirituality as a vital component of recovery. Many people find faith and a supportive religious community helpful in achieving and maintaining sobriety. These programs are often non-profit organizations or are provided through a community church.
Examples of organizations providing substance use treatment include:
- The Salvation Army, which is a Christian charitable organization that runs Harbor Light rehabilitation facilities. These facilities provide:
- Medical detox.
- Residential treatment.
- Outpatient services.
- Case management.
- The Chabad movement recovery program, which funds the Chabad Treatment Center for Jewish men in California.
- The Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Persons and Significant Others (JACS) program in New York City.
The programs listed above all use many of the same evidence-based therapies to treat drug and alcohol abuse that are used in secular treatment programs, though some faith-based programs may require being a member of the church or attending services as a condition of acceptance into the program.
These facilities often receive their funding through government grants and charitable donations.
Spiritual 12-Step Groups: Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous
The 12-step program that is the standard approach for recovery support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) also incorporate faith into their practices.5, 6 These programs allow members to practice the faith of their choosing and are free to join. Both organizations are entirely self-supporting and consist entirely of individuals with a substance use problem.5, 7
Anyone who wishes to recover from their addiction is welcome to join AA or NA; however, completing the 12 steps requires acceptance and faith in a higher power.5, 6 Both programs are practiced worldwide, so most people will have little trouble finding meetings nearby.5, 7 It should be noted that AA and NA do not provide medical detox or outpatient or inpatient services, which may be necessary for certain individuals.
Additional Addiction Treatment Options
Unfortunately, free rehab may not be available for many people attempting to get sober. However, there are a few different ways someone can get treatment if they can’t afford it. These include:
- Insurance. Most health insurance providers (including government-assistance programs like Medicaid and Medicare) cover substance use and mental health treatment.8 The level of coverage and which facilities are available will vary.
- Scholarships. Select facilities, corporations, and non-profit organizations (such as 10,000 beds) may offer scholarships to individuals who qualify. Due to high demand, getting a scholarship for addiction treatment may require attempting multiple avenues and calling around to various facilities.
- Local non-profit and harm reduction programs. Often, programs that provide needle exchange and naloxone distribution are also staffed by medical professionals who may be able to assist those in need find affordable treatment.
- Research studies or clinical trials. Researchers are constantly trying to improve addiction treatment and develop new effective methods. While the purpose of these studies is gaining information, patients may also benefit from new approaches to treatment.
Another point to consider is that many facilities operate based on a “sliding scale” approach to payment—meaning fees charged for services are dependent on the patient’s income. This allows patients to receive high-quality care they would otherwise not be able to afford.
Finding a Way to Get Treatment
While cost remains a large roadblock for many people seeking treatment, many organizations, local governments, non-profit, and for-profit institutions recognize this problem and are expanding their efforts to make drug and alcohol services available for free or at an affordable cost.
American Addiction Centers (AAC) provides quality SUD treatment and is dedicated to helping all who are dealing with alcohol or drug addiction. If you are unsure about the steps you need to take to pursue treatment, call one our admissions navigators today, at 1-888-287-0471 . They will be able to provide you with confidential, in-depth information that can help you start on your path toward recovery.
If you do have insurance, and you are wondering what it covers, click here.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2020). 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Funding and Characteristics of Single State Agencies for Substance Abuse Services and State Mental Health Agencies, 2015.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. (2020). Substance abuse prevention and treatment block grant.
- Democratic Staff of the Senate Committee on Finance. (2016). Dying Waiting for Treatment.
- Alcoholics Anonymous. (2020). What is AA?
- Narcotics Anonymous. (1986). How it works.
- Narcotics Anonymous. (2018). Information about NA.
- Healthcare.gov. (n.d.). Mental health & substance abuse coverage.