Is the system failing recovering addicts on Long Island when it comes to treatment?

Heroin has developed a frightening grip on Long Island's youth in a way not seen for decades. But has the system been failing to help heroin victims? In part five of News 12 Long Island's Heroin: Addicted on Long Island series, a recovering addict and his mother share their story of struggling to get help.

For almost eight years, Patchogue resident James Puckett says he has been laboring to put his addiction to bed. Six months ago, he was living on the streets. He says he's been in treatment nine times starting his sophomore year of high school.

Puckett's mother Nora has been there every step of the way, but the treatments have not been cheap. She says his treatments left her in bankruptcy and her home in foreclosure. Despite her full-time job as a nurse with benefits, Nora says her insurance company was not willing to pay for the treatment.

"They said because he wasn't homicidal or suicidal, he did not meet all of their criteria," she says.

According to drug rehabilitation expert Jeffrey Reynolds, for years, insurance companies have long developed strategies to avoid paying for costly drug rehabilitation. He says some companies have a "fail first" policy, which means an addict must try an outpatient treatment first and fail before being considered for inpatient care.

The issue has grabbed the attention of state lawmakers. In June, the legislature passed a law to create objective rules for deciding who can receive care and who can be denied. It will take effect next April. Puckett says he knows he has a long way to go for recovery, but hopes the new state laws and increased awareness, can help others find their way.

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