California Offers Incentives for People With Addiction to Remain Sober, Approved by Federal Government

California Offers Incentives for People With Addiction to Remain Sober, Approved by Federal Government

The Golden State Leads the Charge in Paying People to Stay Drug-Free

Led by California, a few states are testing an experimental program that pays people to stop using hard drugs. California was the first state to win approval from the Biden administration to cover sobriety payments, with Medicaid incorporating it into an ambitious health-care initiative spearheaded by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom to provide the state’s sickest residents with a broad array of behavioral health and social services. Following California’s lead, Washington state and Montana have also implemented similar programs.

California’s program specifically targets stimulant users, including those using cocaine and meth. Participants are required to regularly undergo drug tests, and if their urine is free of stimulants, they receive payment in the form of a gift card. The payments start at $10 for the first test and increase the longer participants abstain, potentially reaching up to $599 a year.

Addiction doctors have praised the treatment, known as “contingency management,” as being lifesaving. The rise in lethal overdoses in California from meth and cocaine has been alarming, with overdose deaths increasing by 129 percent and 102 percent respectively since 2019. This prompted a proactive response from policymakers to address the growing public health crisis.

The Biden administration has advocated for more states to adopt the contingency management approach, citing it as a proven and effective treatment that remains underutilized. Research has shown promising results from contingency management, with study participants achieving significant periods of sobriety, agreeing to long-term addiction treatment, and even reducing risky behaviors.

In California, 19 out of 58 counties have already enrolled approximately 2,700 stimulant users in the program. Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the U.S., has seen significant participation in the program, with public health officials emphasizing contingency management as one of the most effective ways to curb stimulant use.

Participants in the program face no consequences for failing a drug test; they simply do not receive payment for that day but can try again later. Individuals like Quinn Coburn, a self-described longtime addict, have found success with the program, remaining sober and accumulating over $500 in the rural town of Grass Valley. Coburn credits the program for holding him accountable and providing the support he needs to kick his habit.

With the success and positive outcomes observed in California, other states are likely to follow suit in implementing similar programs to address the growing epidemic of stimulant use and overdose deaths. By incentivizing sobriety and offering support to individuals struggling with addiction, these programs have the potential to save lives and improve public health outcomes across the country.