In an effort to increase access to addiction treatment services in the wake of the opioid crisis, the New York State Health Department is giving hospitals an opportunity to add more in-patient detox beds.
The Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) is temporarily waiving a certification requirement that would allow hospitals to add detox beds through the end of this year.
Monroe County currently only has 25 such beds, even though addiction specialists say the need is four to five times that amount.
But it's not clear if any local hospitals are planning to take advantage of the state waiver.
A spokesperson says UR Medicine does not envision adding detox beds at Strong, Highland, or other hospitals in its network due to capacity constraints.
A spokesperson for Rochester Regional Health says they are still considering the options the state waiver presents.
"To not be able to offer that first step for the many people who need it is, I think, irresponsible of the hospitals," said David Attridge, executive director of Recovery Now New York. He says there is often a waiting list for in-patient recovery treatment of between 7 and 120 patients or more.
In the first two months of 2018 there were 176 overdoses, 30 of them fatal, according to the Monroe County Heroin Task Force.
Attridge says the fear of withdrawal symptoms is the biggest barrier to recovery.
"It may not kill you, but you literally want to die. That's why the suicide rate is so high when people do it on their own, because of what you're going through."
URMC says it does want to create rapid response teams - clinicians who meet with addicted patients in the Emergency Department and refer them to Strong Hospital's outpatient recovery services.
Monroe County Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza says the heroin and opioid crisis calls for multiple solutions.
"A lot of what the physicians on our advisory panel is telling me - and I agree - is that the ER cannot be the nucleus for all solutions around the opioid crisis. It's not fair, it's not adequate, it's not feasible."
Mendoza says primary care physicians, with the help of substance abuse providers, can play a critical role in helping patients transition from acute care to long term recovery.
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