What’s being done locally to address opioid & heroin addiction

President Obama has declared this "prescription opioid and heroin epidemic awareness week.

Courtesy: MGN/Ano Lobb/Flickr
Courtesy: MGN/Ano Lobb/Flickr

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Western Massachusetts families are all too familiar with the devastating effects of opioid and heroin addiction.

“We’ve seen a number of upticks in the number of cases in the emergency departments across the pioneer valley, right here in the Baystate Medical Center we have had approximately triple the number of cases that we have seen last year,” explains Dr. Niels Rathlev.

That means that on average they see at least one patient a day who has overdosed on heroin or opioids. In the past 15 years overdose deaths have increased by 350 percent here in Massachusetts.

“About a year ago laws were implemented that required insurance companies to change the way they offer coverage for substance abuse treatment,” said Kevin Deagan, Deputy Commissioner of Health Care Access.

The new plan provides coverage for medically necessary treatment and stabilization of patients for at least 14 consecutive days. Insurance plans must cover the 14-day period of medical expenses and cannot require preauthorization.

“According to state law what we do now is we provide substance abuse counseling by counselors in the emergency department to them and we do that within 24 hours within their arrival” says Dr. Rathlev.

However, it is not mandatory, and Dr. Rathlev told 22News many patients do not stay for the substance abuse evaluation.

Working for a Better TomorrowIf you or someone you love is dealing with an addiction problem, a page has been developed to assist you begin your journey to recovery. Click Here »

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