Drug addiction treatment difficult in rural America
CHESTER — The drug addict in rural America faces special struggles to get help.
Topping the list are the stigma of drug addiction in small towns and lack of transportation to get to treatment centers. Then there’s the general problems: not enough treatment centers, lack of money, insurance doesn’t go far enough, and the pharmaceutical companies aren’t playing a big enough role.
Those were the issues at a roundtable discussion held on Tuesday, Oct. 18, at the Kent Island Volunteer Fire Department in Chester. The forum was hosted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to discuss solutions to the rural opioid epidemic in Maryland and Delaware and to highlight the critical need for more treatment resources in rural communities.
Chairing the event was Jeff Eschmeyer, senior advisor to the Secretary of U.S. Department of Agriculture. He took notes during the discussion and said, “This will definitely get back to the secretary and back to the White House.”
He cited the issues particular to rural America, including the lack of treatment and recovery facilities, transportation problems, and the long distances people must drive to access treatment.
He also noted the stigma the addict faces in a small towns where it’s common to know everybody, which, he said, “limits the people’s willingness to come forward and get the help they need. It’s not a character flaw. It’s a disease.”
About 26 people attended the forum including officials from the USDA, the Farm Service Agency for Maryland and Delaware, law enforcement officers, mental health officials and community leaders.
“It’s a very complex problem. It’s very good to see the collaboration that’s going on between the departments and different leaders of government,” Eschmeyer said. The USDA is involved in rural America, he said, and plays a part in the community to address the issue.
Also in attendance was Dr. Nancy Rosen-Cohen, executive director of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Maryland chapter. She spoke about the need for treatment beyond the usual 28-day stay in a rehabilitation center.
“You wouldn’t treat a diabetic and get them on insulin for only 30 days [but] some of our individuals with the chronic brain disease of addiction may only receive treatment for 28 days,” she said.
Linda Slacum, state executive director for the USDA Farm Service Agency in Maryland, said the meeting’s big point was to bring the partners together. “The USDA has a part in solving and helping to solve that epidemic of opioid and heroin misuse in rural America,” she said.
Keith Richardson, clinical supervisor for Warwick Manor, an inpatient treatment center in Dorchester County, said the length of stay for impatient care should be longer and insurance needs to pay for the proper level of care.
“I want some of the pharmaceutical companies to pick up some of this tab,” Richardson said.
Richardson, a recovering addict, said drug addiction is a homeland security issue because of the many countries involved in drugs that lead to drug overdoses.
Also in attendance was Lt. Tim McDonald, commander of the state police barracks in Centreville. He spoke after the meeting and said more resources and funding are needed to get the addict to treatment.
Last January, President Obama appointed Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who serves as chair of the White House Rural Council, to lead an interagency effort focused on the specific challenge in rural America about drug addiction.
Obama has proposed $1.1 billion in new funding to support states in expanding treatment options. Maryland would be eligible for up to $17 million and Delaware would be eligible for up to $4 million over two years to expand access to treatment for opioid use disorders. Recently, Congress passed legislation aimed at addressing the crisis; however, it did not provide any funding that would expand resources.
Each year, more Americans die from drug overdoses than in traffic accidents, and more than three out of five of these deaths involved an opioid. Since 1999, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids, including prescription opioid pain relievers, heroin and fentanyl, has nearly quadrupled.
The heroin and prescription opioid epidemic was the topic at a roundtable discussion hosted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture at the Kent Island Volunteer Fire Department in Chester on Tuesday, Oct. 18.