Obstacles Prevent Injection-Drug Users from Getting Treatment

A study of injection-drug users on the streets of New York City and two nearby communities finds that obstacles like lack of insurance and resources have resulted in low treatment-enrollment rates, Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Weekly reported April 12.

For the study, researchers with the New York State Office of Alcoholism & Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) interviewed 144 addicted injection-drug users in the city and nearby communities, as well as 55 outreach workers, 71 treatment and detoxification program staff, and 11 current and former managers in OASAS, the New York State Department of Health's AIDS Institute, and New York City's Human Resources Administration.

All of the drug users interviewed injected heroin at least three times a day. About one-third also injected cocaine. Of the injection-drug users surveyed, 47.9 percent said it was too much of a "hassle" to apply for Medicaid to pay for their treatment; 43.8 percent said the wait time for treatment was too long; and 42 percent said intake was unavailable where they wanted to go.

Of the outreach staff surveyed, the barriers most mentioned were clients' lack of personal identification; no Medicaid; a shortage of treatment slots; agency bureaucracy; transportation problems; and police insensitivity or harassment.

Treatment staff surveyed believed the low enrollment rates among injection-drug users was associated with a lack of motivation for treatment; threats of sanctions; and loss of benefits associated with welfare reform. More than 80 percent of the treatment workers said increases in funding and resources were needed.

The study is published in the April 2004 issue of the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.

Source: www.jointogether.org

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