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County unable to meet need for addiction services

The increase in substance use and abuse among young adults and adolescents has been recently highlighted in the news. I have been in the business of drug treatment for more than 25 years, and am only too aware of the escalating rate of serious and deadly addiction among young people.

This is a problem that is affecting every community in Western New York. No family is immune to the devastation of addiction.

The development and operation of substance use treatment resources is supported by New York State. Research has proven that funding for drug treatment ensures taxpayer savings in criminal justice system costs, in avoiding expensive health care services and in reducing unemployment and the reliance on public assistance. Treatment is effective in breaking the cycle of addiction and in restoring individual lives and families, while simultaneously serving the best interests of our community.

Recently, the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services released its updated "Service Need Profile" for each county. This profile clearly illustrates that our local capacity to meet the need for substance abuse treatment services is insufficient. Perhaps most importantly, only 16 percent of our local need is met for residential drug treatment, compared to 67 percent for the rest of New York. This level of care is essential for people with serious addictions who need intensive treatment in a therapeutic residential environment to successfully recover.

If 84 percent of individuals and families cannot access treatment in Western New York, what options are available? Families can attempt to access these services out of town at costs that can exceed $10,000 per month. They can wait for a bed, and hope that nothing tragic occurs to their loved one in the interim. They can attempt recovery utilizing other supports.

Sometimes those options work and the miracle of recovery happens. Often these alternative options are not sufficient, and these addicted individuals and their families continue the downward spiral of pain and tragedy.

We need state resources for the development and operation of residential treatment to be directed to our region. Residential treatment offers the best chance for the stabilization and early recovery of people with serious addictions, including opiate addiction. Residential treatment offers an opportunity for comprehensive treatment in a safe and supportive environment, including resolving medical and psychiatric issues, developing healthy lifestyles and new recreational alternatives, exploring vocational and educational alternatives and the family healing that is essential for long-term recovery through their participation in treatment.

These are difficult financial times, and we often hear arguments about affordability. Given the human and financial costs to our community of untreated substance abuse, can we afford to not fund these services?

Anne Constantino is president and CEO of Horizon Health Services.

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