COCONUT CREEK, Fla.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Funding for gambling addiction treatment needs to be included in any expansion of Florida's gaming activities, according a team of clinical specialists from Recovery Road, a Palm Beach Gardens program.
"We are not against expanding gambling in Florida," said Dr. Rob Hunter, of Las Vegas Nevada, at an October 23 legislative hearing on the social and economic impact of changing the state's gaming regulations. "Instead, we believe that financial assistance must be put into place to help problem gamblers who need treatment for addiction." Dr. Hunter runs the largest and oldest gambling addiction program in the nation.
State Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, chairman of the Senate gaming committee, led the three-hour hearing at Broward College's North Campus in Coconut Creek to gather input on the possible expansion of casino gambling, a key issue in the upcoming 2014 legislative session.
Hunter told the committee that gambling in Florida is similar to snow skiing in the Rockies. "Skiing is a fun sport that creates jobs and generates tax revenue," he said. "But you also recognize that some skiers will get hurt. So, we are asking the legislature to help protect those people whose lives are harmed by gaming. In other words, don't close the ski resort – fund the ski patrol."
Kristine Odegaard, at Recovery Road, nationally certified to treat compulsive gambling, told the Senate committee that states like Oregon, Iowa and Indiana are providing funding for treatment of gambling addiction with great success. "Minnesota invests $2 million a year to help problem gamblers," she said. "No one in that state is denied treatment due to inability to pay."
Currently, few insurance companies cover gambling addiction treatment, and federal funding is only available for prevention programs, according to Roberta DeBrowner, executive director, Recovery Road.
"It is vital for the state to provide funding for treatment, which helps families and communities, as well as individuals with problems," DeBrowner told the committee. "Problem gamblers can rejoin their loved ones, go back to work and make a productive contribution to our state."
Michelle Fyfe, clinical director, Recovery Road, noted that pathological gambling is now recognized as a mental health disorder like alcoholism or substance abuse. "Gambling addiction is an illness that occurs in a small percentage of the population," she said. "Like other diseases, it is treatable as long as an individual can afford to get help."
Recovery Road is a community-based treatment program located in Palm Beach Gardens, that assists men and women who struggle with addiction, substance abuse and problem gambling. It is operated by Sunspire Health, headquartered in Lyndhurst, NJ, which has six residential treatment centers in Florida, California, Massachusetts, and Oregon.
For more information, visit www.recoveryroadfl.com/gambling-addiction.