In an aggressive proposal, Massachusetts wants to allow hospital staff to send overdose patients to treatment centers against their will for up to three days. The goal is to buy more time for addicts facing imminent risks to accept long-term treatment.
A big challenge in the opioid crisis is getting overdose patients from emergency rooms into treatment. In an aggressive proposal, Massachusetts authorities want to allow hospital staff to send overdose patients to treatment centers against their will for up to three days. The goal is to buy more time for addicts facing imminent risks to accept long-term treatment, the Wall Street Journal reports. Overdose patients revived with the widely used naloxone are eager to flee hospitals because of withdrawal symptoms. “Often people leave the emergency room, right back onto the street to find their next fix,” said Marylou Sudders, the Massachusetts Secretary for Health and Human Services.
Addicts spilling out of hospitals are at high risk. One study found that one in 10 Massachusetts patients who initially survived after first responders treated them with naloxone died within a year. Opioid-related deaths in the state are trending lower in 2017 after record highs in recent years. Addiction experts agree on the most effective way to help opioid addicts: Medication-assisted treatment. Most inpatient rehab facilities in the U.S. don’t offer this option. Efforts are growing to bridge this hospital gap, though not with mandatory treatment like what Massachusetts is proposing. Softer approaches are more common, often employing recovery experts, some of whom are former addicts themselves, who meet overdose patients in the hospital and urge treatment. Such programs are known as warm handoffs; Pennsylvania county officials started developing them last year. Sherry Green, former chief executive at the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws, expects other states to watch the aggressive Massachusetts approach. The state is “taking the lead and trying to figure out how to deal with this,” she said.