The coroner reports there were 17 deaths caused by drug overdoses in Centre County in 2015, up from 16 in 2014. Last year, the number increased to 21, and two months into 2017, five lives were lost.
There is no end in sight to this gripping epidemic, but there is a roster of assistance available to substance abusers and their families.
The Centre County Drug and Alcohol Office has taken up the fight against opioid abuse, and its strong commitment to dealing with the problem is a poignant reminder of the dangers of drugs. Area residents and families affected by opioid abuse should make the CCDA office their first point of contact. The office works as a coordinating service, which maximizes federal and state funding to assist individuals in four areas: prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery support. People with health insurance and those without can find assistance at CCDA to navigate what could be a complicated process and a potentially confusing network of treatment options. Patients may find that their best option for service is at one of CCDA’s contracted treatment facilities.
CCDA serves 70 to 80 individuals on average each year, beginning with screening for inpatient treatment. While the state requires a seven-day benchmark for initial assessment, CCDA workers realize that time is of the essence and work diligently to see patients within 24 hours of their first visit.
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Program facilitators say that the cost of substance abuse treatment can be an important barrier to recovery. Depending on the assessment results, CCDA workers provide specialized treatment strategies and patient referrals. While a private facility with highly personalized treatment might be appropriate for some patients, others might be directed to treatment centers that offer services for lower out-of-pocket price tags. Cost issues should not be a deterrent to accessing treatment for any resident. Cathy Arbogast, assistant administrator of CCDA, said that Medicaid expansion has provided a considerable opportunity to connect people with medical assistance eligibility, with Medicaid covering the related costs.
Removing the barriers that keep people from getting substance abuse treatment is an important step in dealing with opioid addiction. Once substance abuse addiction is diagnosed, it should be treated like any other disease — with easily accessible care and professional treatment to advance the cure.
For now, the CCDA says it can service all the clients who walk through its doors. However, research indicates that not everyone who needs substance abuse treatment seeks it out. CCDA administrators say they believe that if everyone who needed substance abuse treatment showed up at their doors, there would be an overload that could not be addressed. But that’s a problem they say they’re willing to deal with. If you have a friend or family member in need of treatment, don’t wait for tragedy to occur. Take them to CCDA and get them the assistance they need.
County residents should be thankful for CCDA and all of the other local, state and national entities for their work in addressing the growing problems of drug abuse in our communities. This is a devastating health challenge of vast proportion that undermines lives we care about every single day, but we can take comfort and have hope because of the many dedicated people and organizations working to combat and prevent the disease from every possible angle.
For more information, visit centrecountypa.gov/drugandalcohol.
Tell us what you think. We will compile your letters about opioid addiction in Centre County for future publication. You can send letters by going to www. centredaily.com/opinion/ letters-to-the-editor/submit -letter.