Cost of COVID-19 to Substance Use Treatment and Recovery Providers

In the midst of the ongoing addiction crisis, New Hampshire’s substance use disorder (SUD) providers have suffered significant financial losses since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report released this week by New Futures. The report, which includes the results of a survey of New Hampshire’s substance use treatment and recovery organizations, shows that more than 80 percent of responding providers have experienced significant financial hardship due to COVID-19, with average billing losses of more than $21,000 since January.

Click here to see the full report

“While significant progress has been made against the addiction epidemic, New Hampshire’s continued success depends on the long-term stability and financial solvency of substance use disorder treatment providers.”  said Michele Merritt, New Futures’ President and CEO.  “This report highlights the devastating impact of COVID-19 on critical providers, who are hemorrhaging funds at a time when their services are so desperately needed.”

The report, developed in conjunction with Helms & Company, a healthcare consulting firm, surveyed 23 substance use treatment and recovery providers across the state.  The survey included a range of questions regarding organizational budgets, billing revenues, reliance on donations, staffing structure, telehealth capability, COVID-19-related expenses, and access to financial relief programs, among others.

Key Findings

  • 83.3% of responding small and large group treatment providers experienced an overall decrease in insurance revenue between January-April 2020.  On average, each responding small and large group treatment provider lost $21,452 during that time, with average monthly losses of $7,150
  • 73.9% of organizations surveyed reported investing in new technology to see clients safely during COVID-19, at an average cost of $6,324;
  • 47.8% of respondents reported canceling income-generating events, including fundraisers, with average lost revenue of $40,863 per organization.
  • 39.1% of responding organizations reported spending on personal protection equipment (PPE), at an average cost of $3,155.

Extrapolated to include the qualifying organizations listed on the N.H. Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services’ Treatment Locator, these numbers indicate COVID-19 could lead to more than $6 million in billing losses by October, among other costs, to treatment and recovery providers by October, the report concludes. 

Policy Recommendations

Gov. Chris Sununu and members of the Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery recently announced an additional $16 million in funding for the New Hampshire Health Provider Relief Program, which uses federal CARES Act funding to support health-care providers. A portion of these funds may be awarded to select substance use disorder programs. However, the findings from this report suggest more expansive and targeted support will be needed to make these behavioral health providers whole and sustain them into the future.

“For the future of the Granite State, we simply cannot allow treatment and recovery capacity to erode,” said Merritt. “Some of these losses will take years to recover and we must start rebuilding now.”

The full report can be found here: Cost of COVID-19 to Substance Use Treatment and Recovery Providers

Words From the Provider Community 

Just like all New Hampshire treatment providers, Families in Transition-New Horizons has worked hard to be fluid in their response to COVID-19 to ensure continuity and support for clients.

"Despite working as efficiently as possible to pivot in providing quality services via tele-health, the initial impact of COVID-19 on the treatment delivery at FITNH definitely had a financial impact during those first few months of the pandemic. The SUD treatment program experienced an 11% reduction in revenue and the organization’s programs as a whole felt the ripple effect of our community’s economic fragility as well.   As one can imagine, having a reduction in revenue to any FITNH treatment program or basic need services such as shelter, housing and food, creates a precarious situation for an already delicately funded treatment and social service system." -Stephanie Allain Savard, LICSW, Families in Transition-New Horizons’ Chief Operating Officer.

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