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The Nearest Detox Facility for Austin's Uninsured & Indigent is Now in Waco

One challenge many homeless people face is fighting addiction. And that battle could get tougher for some, as an Austin nonprofit that helps people recover from addiction has closed its detox facility – meaning new hurdles for the homeless and uninsured who need detox services.

This month, nonprofit Austin Recovery closed its detox facility. The detox process isn't pretty – in fact, it can be rather dangerous. Patients needed to be monitored around-the-clock by highly trained medical staff, just as if they were in a hospital setting.

But Austin Recovery is not a hospital, and it was not being reimbursed accordingly. So every patient in detox was a financial loss for Austin Recovery–  to the tune of about $500 per patient per day.

"If we were considered a hospital – versus a free standing residential [clinic] – we would be receiving the same rates as a hospital," says Austin Recovery's Angela Vickry. "However hospitals seem to not want to detox."

There are a couple of facilities in Austin that still provide detox treatment –but only to insured patients and it comes at a cost. For those who are uninsured or indigent, the nearest facility is now in Waco.

One of the groups still providing service locally is Austin/Travis County Integral Care. But the group doesn't offer inpatient care – and even at that level, Chief Strategy Officer Ellen Richards says it's a financial burden. She says her group is planning a strategy to provide more care to indigent patients: "Integral Care is convening our partners to look at what services are needed and to identify opportunities to expand services in this area, including funding sources for those services," Richards says.

Richards says those conversations have just started, so there's no time-frame for when or if other groups will start providing detox treatment any time soon. 

Texas Standard reporter Joy Diaz has amassed a lengthy and highly recognized body of work in public media reporting. Prior to joining Texas Standard, Joy was a reporter with Austin NPR station KUT on and off since 2005. There, she covered city news and politics, education, healthcare and immigration.
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