The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration(SAMHSA) estimates that in the United States, more than 20 million people are a.ce5 ddbffected by a substance abuse issue, but only 10 percent actually get treatment. Of the total number of individuals affected by substance abuse, almost 40 percent can’t afford treatment.

While those without insurance have more limited options, there are free outpatient substance abuse treatment programs available. These generally are funded by federal, state, and nonprofit sources.


If people have some form of insurance, they can start by looking at private programs. One way to begin the search is to utilize SAMHSA’s Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator. SAMHSA also hosts a Directory of Single State Agencies for Substance Abuse Services, featuring contact information for state-specific resources.

To facilitate this process, be prepared to verify your income, any insurance you may have, and the need for any financial support.

For those without insurance and with very limited financial resources, there still are outpatient treatment options. Some programs allow an individual to pay on a sliding scale based on their income level, or the cost may be deferred to some other organization.


Veterans of the United States Armed Services may qualify for free substance use disorder treatment. Contact the Veterans Administration to find out if you are eligible.


Many states provide funding for substance abuse treatment through state facilities. These centers usually require that clients meet specific qualifications such as:

  • The client is a resident of the state based on the state’s requirements for residency.
  • The client can demonstrate a lack of insurance and/or income.
  • The client can demonstrate the need for treatment. A formal diagnosis of a substance use disorder by a medical doctor will usually fulfill these criteria.

Some states may have specific other requirements.

Get in touch with your state mental/behavioral health or substance abuse treatment services department. The SAMHSA Directory of Single State Agencies link provided above can help you determine whom to contact. You can also visit your state government website and find information about these services and how to apply for them.


Numerous programs are essentially free. Most of these are faith-based programs that often will accept or ask for donations, such as a $1 donation at each meeting. These donations are not required, so if someone cannot donate, they are not penalized.


Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are based on the 12-step model. They offer an organized program of recovery, numerous meetings, and the development of a strong support group for the treatment of addictive behaviors.

While these groups don’t technically qualify as treatment since professionals don’t provide care, they can promote a strong foundation in recovery.


Salvation Army programs for the rehabilitation of substance abuse issues may be an option for some individuals. These programs typically are run through donations. They are faith-based and free for the individuals who qualify.


Local treatment organizations may offer rehabilitation scholarships for outpatient treatment. Contact local substance abuse counselors and inquire about local programs that offer scholarships for treatment.


Non-12-step support groups are usually not faith-based. They do not rely on a higher power or conceptualization of God, an aspect of 12-step groups that some people find unappealing.

These groups are also free, though small donations are requested, and they can offer participants a strong program for sobriety.


Specialized programs may be available at community mental health centers or through other local programs. Visit your state’s government website or local community mental health center for more information on availability.


This organization is a potential resource to help an individual find free local substance use disorder treatment in their area. They may be able to connect you with programs that provide scholarships, free programs, sliding scale programs, and more.

Some individuals may qualify for health coverage through Medicaid, which will allow them to get free treatment at some facilities. The number of treatment facilities that accept Medicaid is limited.

In some cases, treatment may begin when an individual is still applying for Medicaid. Begin the application process to determine eligibility.


Many outpatient treatment centers offer financing options to enable people to get the treatment they need even if they can’t currently afford it. Essentially, the individual can immediately enroll in treatment and then pay off the cost slowly over time after they have completed the program.

Since earning potential goes up exponentially once someone who no longer struggles with addiction, this option makes sense for a lot of people. Generally, the financing plans are offered at a low interest rate, and they can be paid on a monthly basis.

Those with any degree of insurance should always discuss the extent of their coverage with their insurance representative to determine the out-of-pocket costs for specific treatment providers.


Treatment outcomes are similar for those who participate in free programs, such as public addiction treatment programs, and those who opt for private programs.

Free outpatient programs will generally offer the backbone elements of addiction treatment, such as medication and therapy. These programs likely will not offer complementary or alternative treatments that are featured at private facilities.

The biggest indicator of success in recovery is the amount of time someone spends in substance abuse treatment. Those who participate in longer programs, of 90 days or more, have higher rates of abstinence than those who choose short-term programs.

If the amenities of a private program make it more likely that you will stick with the program, that may be a better option for you.

It might make sense to finance the cost of your treatment in this situation.

Those with limited financial resources can access free or low-cost care from a variety of sources. Don’t let finances be a barrier to your recovery. There are many available options.

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