High drug overdose deaths point to shortage in treatment facilities

(WHAM photo)

Rochester, N.Y. - Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death in the U.S. for those under the age of 50. That's according to a New York Times report.

The numbers point to another concern: The difficulty of finding treatment for addicts.

Lori Dresher's son celebrated one year in recovery. He received treatment in Pennsylvania, where he currently lives

"My son was addicted to opioid pills while in high school," she said. "Then, about two year later, he moved on to heroin."

But before that, her family struggled for nine years to get him clean.

"It was pretty easy to get him into treatment back in 2012," she added. "Today's a different story."

As the number of deaths and opioid overdoses continues to rise, finding an available bed for treatment becomes harder and harder.

"[It] means we're either going to lose that person to an overdose fatality in the meantime, or they're going to completely change their mind," Dresher said.

Depending on the bed availability and discharges each day, wait times can range from one day to a couple of weeks.

That's been Jonathan Westfall's experience with two of his children who suffer from substance addictions.

"My other son sat in Wayne County Jail for five weeks waiting for a bed," he said. "We really had to resort to that to get him higher on the list."

Rochester Regional Health has 90 beds across three inpatient facilities: Batavia, Greece, and Clifton Springs. All are occupied.

"It's something...every agency in our community has been trying to address," said Erin Wong of Unity Chemical Dependency at Rochester Regional Health. "I think we have to get creative, because I don't think they'll ever be enough beds, unfortunately, for the rate of the opioid epidemic is growing right now."

To help cut down on wait time, the health system screens for outpatient detox services.

"In which a patient comes in seven to 10 days," Wong said. "They go home at night and sleep in their own beds, but they receive the same medical taper just on an outpatient basis."

Dresher now serves as a coach to help families navigate a complex system.

"We need to look at every solution right now," Dresher said.

Some resources for families with loved ones suffering from an opioid addiction is below:

New Community Resource for helping families and individuals connect to addiction treatment and recovery resources, including Peer Advocates.

For families in need of a Family Recovery Coach, and for those seeking training to become a needed Peer Guide to support people can find resources here.

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