There is a public health crisis in the United States that is largely ignored by the media. In New York State, drug overdose deaths rose 169 percent between 1979 and 2010. Overdose deaths top motor vehicle accident mortalities today.
Some drug addictions start with a need for pain medicine after an injury. Too many patients do not comprehend how addictive prescription drugs can be. They feel that they are safe because a doctor has prescribed them. These people can quickly spiral into a very painful addiction. Worse yet, those addicted to legally prescribed pain medications are turning to heroin which is cheaper and readily acquired after their prescription becomes too hard to obtain or too expensive.
In the face of this, it has never been more important for the New York State budget to fund public health initiatives that cost-effectively treat people suffering from addictions and their complex clinical situations using wrap-around services proven to improve health and social outcomes.
One such program is St. Christopher’s Inn, which offers a continuum of care for chemical dependency for up to 1,200 men annually. Clients are treated for their substance abuse problems, receive psychiatric evaluations and treatment, get their medications stabilized in a safe environment, and have access to primary care including physicals, testing, and coordination of care and health education, all in a safe clean environment.
Since over 35 percent of clients entering day treatment programs report they do not have stable housing, programs offer shelter, food and clothing, as well as a support network and education, that contribute to successful long-term outcomes. These programs reduce emergency room visits and encounters with the criminal justice system.
Sadly, many people seeking recovery are hindered by a lack of available treatment programs or are simply unable to pay for help they desperately need. In order to tackle this growing tragic public health problem, New York State must treat chemical dependency as a significant problem by expanding the budget for proven treatment options. New York’s citizens should support this effort, because in the long run, funding treatment will reduce health-care costs, and it will lower criminal justice costs saving their tax dollars. It also will save lives.
Fr. Bill Drobach, SA
President & CEO, St. Christopher’s Inn
St. Christopher’s Inn is a ministry of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement.