SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The opioid overdose epidemic is taking lives and destroying communities in Massachusetts.
“No addict should have to wait if they say, ‘I’m ready now,'” Katherine Wilson, BHN President, and CEO, told 22News.
Delayed insurance referrals and a shortage of beds are creating barriers for drug users who want to get clean.
“We have two people in need and we have to make a choice,” said Wilson.
Deadly opioid overdoses increased by 90 percent in Massachusetts from 2002-2012.
According to a recent ACLU report, only 868 of the state’s 4,000 treatment beds offered detox. Detox programs offer medications like Suboxone, which help lessen withdrawal symptoms.
This is just one of a handful of recovery centers being offered to addicts here in the Pioneer Valley.
According to Katherine Wilson, the problem is there aren’t enough beds to cover the number of addicts looking to kick the habit.
BHN and Providence Behavioral Health Hospital are the only in-state funded detox facilities in western Massachusetts. BHN offers 192 detox beds between their Franklin and Hampden County. No such facility exists in Hampshire County.
“We have people who will just hang out and wait until the next day,” Wilson told 22News. “If we have one leaving and we anticipate we’re going to have a bed, later in the day, we may say to that person, ‘We’re ready to take you in as soon as we are able to transfer the other person to another program.'”
However, some addicts are forced back onto the streets, where Tapestry Health encounters them.
Massachusetts has taken pro-active steps to stop the crisis.
“Teaching people how to recognize and respond to an overdose, including teaching people on how to use Narcan and providing access to unused syringes,” Liz Whynott of Tapestry Health told 22News.
In 2016, Massachusetts launched the Prescription Awareness Tool, a database that links health professionals in neighboring states to prevent doctor shopping.
A statewide Narcan pilot program trains active drug users on how to respond to overdose and the good samaritan law allows someone to call 911 for an overdose without fear of arrest.
Governor Baker’s allocated $30 million in Medicaid funding for opioid treatment and education.