The opioid epidemic is devastating Staten Island, affecting those from all races, ages and socioeconomic backgrounds — but the borough is severely lacking in treatment centers, according to a new study.
A report by Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs released on Wednesday looked at opioid addiction across Staten Island. One stark finding was that the areas on Staten Island with the highest overdose counts are also the most underserved when it comes to addiction treatment options.
“Zip code 10306, for example, has the single highest overdose rate per 100,000 people (26.8), yet it is absent of any outpatient MAT [medicated-assisted treatment] or inpatient clinics,” the study reads.
There are only two methadone providers on the island and three inpatient clinics, only one of which offers detoxification treatment, the study found. Both the methadone and inpatient clinics were “typically at full capacity.”
Patricia Allen, executive director of medical services for Summit Behavioral Health, which offers addiction treatment, was not directly involved in the study but has extensive experience when it comes to this epidemic. Treatment options are scarce, she said, because of the ”pandemic nature of opioid dependence.”
“Resources cannot keep up with the pace of this growing opioid epidemic,” she said in an email. “Twenty percent of those with a substance use disorder receive substance abuse treatment. Only ten percent of those with an opiate use disorder receive treatment.”
Allen noted that many patients don’t receive medicated-assisted treatment, which means they are missing that “safety net” post detox, something the Columbia study also notes by reporting that those interviewed mentioned aftercare services also need improvement.
Researchers interviewed people from five groups for the study: political officials, law enforcement officials, people in recovery, academic researchers and service providers.
The top recommendation to combat this drug epidemic, researchers suggested, is to first provide access to opioid addiction services where they’re most needed by expanding medicated-assisted treatment options and methadone provisions, sponsoring physicians to become buprenorphine certified (which requires eight-hour training courses in order for physicians to prescribe and dispense the treatment) and more.
Research also suggests better coordinating treatment systems so every patient is exposed to a “spectrum of services,” helping everyone receive the personalized care they need to recover.
“Treatment for opiate dependence cannot exist in silos,” Allen said. “Partnerships in care are essential.”