Helping those with addiction


GOSHEN – As the scourge of opioid addiction continues to plague the Hudson Valley, there is a lot of dialogue surrounding the subject: how can these addicts get the help they need, what can be done about reducing stigma surrounding addiction so it can be more openly discussed and regarded as the medical issue it is, and how can addiction service providers get the funding they need to make available to this population in need of the best care?

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand recently announced the introduction of the Family Support Services for Addiction Act, which would provide $5 million, over five years, to non-profits and other addiction service providers. This prompted many of the Hudson Valley’s local addiction specialists and non-profit organization administrators to voice what they need funding for most desperately.

Although some of these areas that crucially need funding were voiced during a Newburgh briefing, there was a clear misunderstanding between local elected officials and addicts seeking treatment that hasn’t been talked about. That is, the idea that there are not enough services, beds and medication assisted programs to go around. That there are vast waiting lists preventing addicts from getting clean either due to lack of adequate insurance or just plain unavailability.

Administrators from RECAP (Regional Economic Community Action Program) and Catholic Charities of Sullivan, Orange and Ulster were gracious enough to sit down and discuss these misconceptions with Paul Ostrander of Mid-Hudson News, setting the record straight on what the current state of treatment availability is and what the main issues affecting treatment services locally are. Spoiler: it’s not a lack of beds, services, or insurance issues.

Catholic Charities of Sullivan, Orange and Ulster CEO Dean Scher said one of the two main culprits, is adequate staffing, pay and workforce development. To be fair, this was previously made public as one of the main issues this new bill would address; however, what was overlooked was that OASAS (the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports) regulates how much CASACs (Certified Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselors) can make. For instance, in Orange County, Catholic Charities is given $200,000 of the annual budget, but they cannot use that to increase pay for these qualified staff.

To put into perspective what type of job a CASAC is, in order to be one you need: a high school diploma or GED, pass a criminal background check, have 350 hours of education and training, as well as sign a contract of ethical principles.

OASAS considers this to be a minimum wage job and Scher said this creates a huge problem.

“So when our nurses, or our CASACs, are making what somebody could make going to Burger King, it’s hard to recruit; so, salaries is a big issue,” said Scher. “In our field, we haven’t been able to give across the board salary increases in over seven years. That creates a problem,” he said.

The other overlooked issue is the availability of services. Part of that is a broad brush approach sometimes being painted for medicated assisted treatment, which is currently considered to have the highest success rate and efficacy; but, not all medication assistance is equal. Waiting lists are typically for Methadone programs, where additional counseling care is required for acceptance into the program. However, for medication assistance, like with Suboxone or Vivitrol, that counseling is not mandatory for acceptance into the program and lack of insurance, or under insurance, is not a barrier to entry into these programs offered by Catholic Charities and RECAP.

RECAP Chief Operating Office Michele McKeon said those services are only the tip of the iceberg with regards to the available services for locals suffering with addiction.

“I think there is a misunderstanding of the width and breadth of services available in this county,” said McKeon. “We have residential, we have non-residential, we have day-hab, we have clinic, we have outpatient and community based services, our peers – all of those things exist throughout the county, and it’s not just done by RECAP and Catholic Charities, or Cornerstone. There is a nice group of not-for-profits who work together as partners in order to make sure we are trying to meet as many people’s needs as possible,” she said.

These are the other services RECAP alone currently offers: Supportive Housing, Case Management, Parole Reentry, Workforce Development (including: Fresh Start and Mill Street Cafes), Weatherization, Orange County Fuel Fund, Nutrition and Advocacy- including Food Pantry, Head Start – three locations – Middletown, Scotchtown and Port Jervis.

For addiction services, RECAP has no limit to enrollment in day plans which include medication assisted treatment. Catholic Charities currently has no limit out-patient accommodation, 14 detox beds, 48 residential beds, approximately 18 community apartments and no limit for community-based treatment enrollment. Their medication assisted treatment also has no limit, or waiting list.

If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction, the help is available to you right now, regardless of financial status, or insurance.

Those interested in learning more about the various addiction treatment services in Orange County are encouraged to visit the county website, RECAP’s website, and for the greater Mid-Hudson area, the Catholic Charities website; however, calling, or just showing up and asking for help in person is also a viable option, according to the representatives from Catholic Charities and RECAP.

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