For many facing addiction, getting into a rehab facility is the only way to turn their lives around. But in Arkansas, getting into treatment isn't as easy as deciding you're ready.
"All that stuff that I put myself through, I'm still here. There's got to be a reason I'm still here,” said a counselor in a crowded room full of recovering addicts. They discuss their trials and tribulations, but also their futures. "There's got to be a reason I did make it for one more chance,” she added.
They're part of the outpatient program and Quapaw House in Hot Springs.
"What am I going to do? How am I going to get out of this,” asked Kelly Wood. Her journey to recovery has only just begun. "You want the help, you need the help, but getting in the door to get there; there's so much stuff in between, so much junk."
Wood sat down with me only four hours after entering rehab. She told me she had a hard time getting in and finally took matters into her own hands.
"I kept making calls. I ended up in the hospital, in the mental hospital. That's what finally got me in to treatment. It was a drastic... it was a suicide attempt,” she told me. “I couldn't get any help, so I was just going to take care of it on my own. Finally, I ended up in the hospital and that's what got me in. It was a drastic measure."
Wood is one member of a growing population of people here in Arkansas looking for treatment but with nowhere to go.
"The biggest tragedy is that they deserve to have a chance,” said Quapaw House Executive Director, Casey Bright.
Every day they treat 800 to 900 clients statewide. While that number may seem extreme, Bright said it's only a small fraction of the need.
"We know without a shadow of a doubt, that based on requests, just phone calls, we could treat between 1,500 and 1,800 a day today. That's without having to go find any population,” he went on to say.
Quapaw House has around 350 beds across Arkansas, but operate on a budget of only $8 million per year.
"There's hospitals in our state that aren't even as big as we are that are $30-40 million,” Bright told me.
Rehabilitation facilities are carrying a lot of the weight in the growing opioid epidemic, but are given only a fraction the budget of other state agencies. By comparison, DHS gets approximately $1.5 billion in General Revenue from the State. The Department of Corrections gets $350 million.
"We're not treating them prior. So it's kind of like, we wait until the heart attack and then we decide, now it is time to treat them,” the Executive Director explained, adding the State could save a lot of money by investing in treatment rather than incarcerating addicts.
To treat all the people currently seeking treatment at Quapaw House, he says he'd need $20 million. That figure doesn't include anticipated growth.
The support from the State, in the form of legislation or tax revenue, he said, hasn't been there. But it has been available for other programs.
"People are overdosing all the time and we want to save their lives. Which is definitely what we should be doing. So, we get funding for Narcan. And Narcan is great. But here's the thing, you give them the Narcan, and you save their life that time. Well, they're going to go back and use. Because all you did was reserve their high,” he said.
While you may think the opioid epidemic is top of mind nationwide, there's got to be money available somewhere. Bright said it's not that simple.
"It's a challenge because with any dollars you accept, especially if they are grants or contracts, there comes a whole new set of required things for you to do. So it's always great when we are able to find the dollars, but then you've got to be able to afford to perform the duties that are required."
That often includes technology upgrades. Technology Bright said they can't afford.
70 percent of their clients are indigent. The State's rehab facilities, he said, haven't gotten an increase in funding for that population since 1992.
"It's been hard for them to take away from somebody they don't feel has the social stigma of addiction. Why give it to them, when I can give it to this person,” Bright said finally of the stigma surrounding funding treatment.
People like Kelly Wood.
"I don't need the drugs and alcohol anymore. That's the bottom line,” the recovering addict told me confidently as our interview wrapped.
Bright is hopeful Quapaw House will be able to secure more funding during the next legislative session, which will be April of 2019. Until then, they'll be forced to raise the cost on people who can pay outright.
As the opioid epidemic continues to grow, he anticipates the need for treatment centers will only get more dire.