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Letter: Insurers stint on outpatient rehab

I own two outpatient programs on Long Island, and there was a significant omission from the news story "Bill: Boost rehab help" [March 3].

Insurance companies want to pay for outpatient treatment, which in their language is 55 minutes a week. We have to fight, and often fail, to get intensive outpatient treatment -- nine to 15 hours a week -- covered.

We are routinely told that patients don't exhibit enough "motivation" because they are not making major behavioral changes in short periods. We are treating people whose brains have been hijacked by a drug. The compulsion to use drugs overrides intellect, motivation and consequences.

We have treatment outcomes similar to any other chronic disease, such as diabetes or heart disease. In addition, the chronic-pain patients are being dumped into our addiction system to reverse the ravages of poorly managed pain-medication treatment.

Picking up a drug is, indeed, a choice. Addiction is not. I have treated probably 20,000 people. In 30 years, no one has ever told me his or her childhood dream was to become an alcoholic or drug addict. These people are sick and suffering. Let them get the treatment they need.

Claudia Ragni, Smithtown

Editor's note: The writer owns outpatient drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs in Hauppauge and Syosset.