The condition of around 1.4 million New Yorkers who are struggling with substance abuse is about to change with the launching of a new joint effort of the city’s Office of Mental Health and the Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services, which aims to provide simultaneous treatment to people with co-occurring disorders.
At present, such patients are unable to receive simultaneous treatment for both conditions primarily due to a flawed coding system of the Medicaid program. Over the years, lack of this kind of treatment has been a barrier in proper treatment and a common factor in discontinued programs, relapse, and even suicide.
According to Michael Hogan, the commissioner of Office of Mental Health, this joint effort is expected to save many lives. He noted that an alarming 90% of suicides in New York City are committed by mentally unstable individuals who, more often than not, are also drug users or chronic drinkers.
Under this proposed effort, a $3.2 million grant to be given by the National Development and Research Institutes Inc. would be used to train substance abuse workers and mental health workers to treat patients suffering from both conditions. More importantly, the joint effort would reassess the entire treatment structure that currently prevails in the state. This reassessment includes all aspect of treatment such as screening, rehabilitation, discharge, and aftercare.
In the current treatment structure, the requests of people seeking for help with their mental illness while in drug rehab are often rejected because the Medicaid program do not pay for these individuals to receive both types of treatment at once.
“If you were going to treat people with both sets of problems, you would have to go to both sets of agencies and get two different licenses,” Hogan said. “You’d have to have two different waiting rooms; you would have to have two different bathrooms, for Pete’s sake.”
Karen Carpenter-Palumbo, the commissioner of the Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services noted that the joint effort would the majority of people with both addiction problems and mental illnesses who are often reluctant to seek treatment from various centers and state agencies. “If you need treatment for a dual diagnosis, you will get it,” she said.
The proposed simultaneous services would be implementation in all of the 1,224 state-licensed substance abuse and mental health outpatient treatment centers licensed in New York.
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