According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), It is estimated that as many as 2.5 million people in the US are suffering from opioid addiction related to prescriptions, and an additional 467,000 are addicted to heroin.
Despite the US Government declaring the opioid epidemic a public health emergency in 2016, there is a marked discrepancy between the number of people who need addiction treatment in the United States and those who actually receive it.
About 21 million people age 12 and older, or approximately 1 in 13 people in this age group, need substance use disorder treatment. An estimated 3.8 million people age 12 and older receive treatment, which means only about 18% of those who need treatment receive care.
People go untreated for many reasons. They may be reluctant to seek treatment due to stigma, or they may not have insurance to cover the costs. Or, particularly relevant to our region, they may live in an area where treatment isn’t available.
People in rural areas such as the North Country face particular hurdles to treatment, as 92% of the substance abuse treatment facilities in the United States are in urban areas.
To increase access to treatment in our rural setting, St. Joseph’s continues to increase access to services in response to the areas of highest demand. In the past year, we have added seven adolescent beds for 12- to-16-year-olds and shifted seven men’s beds to women’s beds to significantly reduce the wait time for women. Our increasing capacity and maintaining flexibility have helped St. Joseph’s serve patients who otherwise would have experienced barriers to access the treatment they need for sustained recovery.
St. Joseph’s most recent effort to enhance access to treatment is our establishing a Mobile Treatment Unit consisting of a Clinician and a Certified Peer Recovery Advocate (CRPA) to eliminate on the greatest barriers to care – that of transportation.
The Mobile Treatment Unit will also allow us to bring services to individuals in communities where it would be difficult to establish permanent physical sites.
With grant funding provided by a State Opioid Response (SOR) grant from OASAS, St. Joseph’s has acquired a 2018 Mercedes Benz Sprinter and hired returning counselor, Frank Landerway. As Frank shares, “The program is really all about caring for those who have a hard time getting the treatment they need. It’s new for St. Joe’s, and we’ll be covering all of Franklin County.”
As the program is just developing, the full scope of services has not yet been finalized, but will include a range of resources, from transporting an individual who has successfully detoxed to inpatient care, and increasing access to services across the County,
As St. Joseph’s Community Services Director, Robin Gay explains, “This is an exciting opportunity to bring services to individuals versus individuals struggling to remove barriers they are faced with in challenging situations in both Franklin and Essex Counties.”
Perhaps most importantly, the new Mobile Treatment Unit program, which has plans to expand to additional vehicles, Clinicians and peers, has the potential to become a vital element of St. Joseph’s continuum of care in overcoming the unique challenges of our unique rural region, including that of access to treatment.