Berkshire Medical Center's opening of a unit dedicated to providing longer-term opioid addiction fills a substantial gap in treating a disease that has reached epidemic proportions in the Berkshires.
The state-funded Clinical Stabilization Services unit will provide patients with 14 to 30 days of treatment following completion of a detox program at BMC's McGee Recovery Clinic. Currently, addicts receive five days of treatment and then are sent back to the bad influences that produced or enabled their addictive behavior. The closest long-term, live-in facility that provides a safe environment and extensive rehabilitation is in Springfield and that waiting list is lengthy (The Eagle, April 27).
That will change when the 30-day program launches at BMC's Clinical Stablization Services unit. Patients will receive behavior modification and anxiety reduction therapy along with assistance in finding housing and getting back into the job market. Those will give them a fighting chance of moving forward rather than falling back into old habits.
That Pittsfield is the fifth worst city in the nation in terms of the percentage of opioid addictions abused, according to a report from Castlight Health, is discouraging. In 2015, 35 Berkshire residents died of overdoses, an increase of 12 — roughly 50 percent — over 2014.
The battle is being fought on a number of fronts, thanks in part to federal and state funding from the Obama and Baker administrations. The focus has gone from punishment to treatment, which has helped reduce the stigma of addiction and encouraged people to find help. State regulators guided by new laws are working with the medical community to reduce the number of painkiller prescriptions that lead to addiction and heroin use.
The problem in the city and county is so severe, however, that the 30 beds may not be sufficient. Ideally, once the program is established at BMC, additional funding can be found to expand it. The Brien Center, whose 24-bed Keenan House recovery program is designed to serve those who have already been through a Clinical Stabilization Services program, has applied to the state for funding to address its waiting list by adding 16 beds for women. Money spent on opioid addiction, by reducing the strain on medical providers and law enforcement and by helping people return to their families and community, is money well-spent.