NY needs more detox centers, not fewer

To the editor:

St. Mary’s Hospital in Troy has closed its detox unit. I find this very upsetting during this heroin epidemic.

When I asked “why,” I was told they have “discontinued acute care but still have an inpatient substance abuse rehab unit.” I asked if a patient in withdrawal would be admitted into inpatient treatment. I was told, “No, the patient must be detoxed first and should go to St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany.” St. Peter’s is the only hospital to provide detox (medically assisted withdrawal) services from the Canadian border to the New York City region.

As a family member of addiction, I know firsthand the relief when someone you love says, “Yes, I need help and will go to treatment.” This is followed by anger, frustration and fear when they are turned away by the hospital staff because they “do not provide these services.” Detox is the first and necessary step toward a life in recovery from addiction.

Our insurance companies and even OASAS (the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse) have made it difficult for these hospitals to bill for these services because they do not consider withdrawal from heroin “life threatening.” Since when must a disease be life threatening to qualify for treatment? Tell this to the families of Tori Herr, David Stojcevski and others who die of the dehydration caused by unassisted withdrawal. Tell the families of patients who were refused treatment, who become victims of a suicide or accidental overdose, that their children were not a danger to themselves or others.

Many people can and do recover from addiction and become successful members of society. Many more people struggling with the disease of addiction want to stop using drugs and alcohol, only to be turned away by our current health care system. We need every hospital to provide these services!

Thanks for listening,

Sue E. Martin

Pharmacist, person in long-term recovery, advocate for recovery with RAIS (Recovery Advocates In Saratoga) and family member of addiction

Saratoga Springs