Massachusetts Lacks Inpatient Treatment for Girls

Officials at addiction facilities in Massachusetts say state cuts in funding have resulted in a shortage of inpatient treatment programs, especially for girls, the Quincy Patriot Ledger reported April 26.

As arrest rates for heroin and other drug use among juveniles continue to rise, there are only three inpatient programs in the state that accept teenage girls. Because each of the facilities has less than 50 treatment beds, they are constantly full.

"You expect to get help when you need it, but what you need doesn't exist," said Robyn, a Weymouth mother of a 17-year-old heroin addict who asked that her last name be withheld. "As a parent, I don't want to keep going through this. My daughter's life is unraveling."

Police and prosecutors in the state have warned about the impact of addiction-treatment cuts. Since the 2001-2002 fiscal year, funding has been reduced 30 percent, from $48.3 million to $33.8 million this year. As a result, a number of facilities have closed or reduced services.

"I'm very angry and very frustrated," said Earl Dandy, program director at Project Rebound, a residential-treatment program in Quincy. "We get calls from kids, parents, clergy and schoolteachers, and we can't bring them in."

Although Project Rebound has 22 treatment beds, Dandy said he can only fill 10 of them because of budget cuts.

The lack of funding has caused a jump in emergency-room use, according to the Massachusetts Hospital Association. "What we're hearing from our members is that this is becoming a big source of pressure on the free care pool and the emergency department setting," said Paul Wingle, a spokesman for the Hospital Association. "People under the influence of drugs or alcohol are tough patients to deal with."

Despite the problems, Gov. Mitt Romney plans to cut another $2 million from spending on addiction treatment in the budget year that begins July 1. However, state public-health officials said the governor's budget proposal would actually increase overall spending on treatment because it would redirect money to other human service agencies to develop a more comprehensive system of addiction treatment services.

"Substance-abuse issues are exploding, and that begs the question how each of our respective systems can respond to that," said Michael Botticelli, assistant commissioner for the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services. "Given finite resources, we're trying to make sure we are providing as much access as we can."


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