New Long Island partnership aims to close opioid addiction treatment gap

NASSAU COUNTY, Long Island (WABC) -- A new partnership on Long Island hopes to help fix the opioid addiction crisis by providing overdose patients with immediate transportation and admission into residential treatment programs from the emergency room.

Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced the collaboration between the DA's Office, Northwell Health, Nassau University Medical Center and Maryhaven's New Hope Crisis Center aimed at helping close the deadly treatment gap.

As part of the three-pronged strategy against the heroin crisis -- which includes enforcement, education and treatment -- Singas has negotiated a unique and medically approved treatment program.

Staff from Maryhaven's New Hope Stabilization/Crisis Center began a pilot program Monday with Northwell-LIJ and Nassau University Medical Center, in which New Hope staff are on call to respond directly to the hospital emergency rooms to work with the hospital staff to counsel patients and immediately transport them to New Hope to begin treatment.

The patient will be assessed to determine the next phase of treatment, and the New Hope staff will assist the patient with any necessary insurance, Medicare or Medicaid paperwork.

The patient will remain at New Hope until there is availability in the next program, and the average length of stay is seven to 10 days.

"Since my office provided funding to expand New Hope's services and admission hours in 2015, more than 2,200 people have been helped," Singas said. "They had a safe and supportive place to go through withdrawal and to be directed to the next phase of treatment. Now there will be no delay between the hospital and help."

Typically, users who overdose and are revived are stabilized and released from the emergency department because withdrawal is not considered medically life-threatening. The person in crisis is released back into the community while experiencing withdrawal, and even if the patient is released to a family member, the relative is frequently unequipped to handle the challenges of a person painfully withdrawing from drugs.

This treatment gap leaves many patients on their own during the most violent, painful and difficult throes of withdrawal, often leading to repeat use that can continue uninterrupted until death.

This cycle can also lead to crimes often associated with the need for money to support opiate abuse, like robbery and burglary.

Nassau University Medical Center has further committed to the efforts to fight this continuing epidemic by making 20 more beds available for detoxing patients, by working with Nassau County and Sheriff Vera Fludd to bring a re-entry Vivitrol program to the Nassau County Correctional Facility, and by expediting a program to make medically assisted treatment inductions available through the emergency department.

The DA's funding allowed New Hope to expand admissions to 24/7 coverage, as well as hire a nurse practitioner and psychiatrist to allow admission to patients with underlying health issues and to provide medically assisted treatment.

In 2018, according to the Nassau County Medical Examiner, 123 individuals died of an opioid-related overdose in Nassau County. Currently, the Medical Examiner has 72 cases that are pending cause of death determination, and those cases may or may not be opioid overdose-related.

In 2017, 184 individuals died of an overdose in Nassau County.

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