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Leaders plead for more treatment beds to help people addicted to opioids

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Apr 29, 2016 1:48 PM
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Photo by Ben Allen/witf

Rep. Mike Sturla, Gov. Tom Wolf, Jo Ann Lawer with LG Health/Penn Medicine, and Rep. Bryan Cutler listen at a roundtable to address the opioid epidemic, held in Lancaster.

(Lancaster) -- Leaders at a roundtable with Governor Tom Wolf delivered a clear and consistent message: treatment programs aren't keeping up with demand.

On a day when President Barack Obama welcomed 10 "Champions of Change" to the White House in praise of their efforts to fight the opioid crisis, Governor Tom Wolf and others gathered for the roundtable in Lancaster.

Leaders said prevention should start earlier in schools, that people addicted to opioids should get help, not locked up, and that there's a lot of stigma about the disease.

But the conversation often returned to the lack of treatment beds.

One long-term treatment program with 25 beds says it can only help about 4 percent of patients who get referred to it.

Democratic state Representative Mike Sturla says government should reassure groups that are considering adding treatment beds.

"If we can guarantee that that funding stream exists, we can actually save money in the medical system because that person won't get admitted to the emergency room 10, 12 times, we won't see the crime involved with it," says Sturla.

Governor Wolf echoed Representative Sturla's thoughts - saying there may be a misalignment of supply and demand - too many people going to prison, not enough getting treatment.

Added Sturla: "We can't say to the provider, go ahead and build that bed, we're just never going to pay you for it. That's an alignment of where we want to put the funding and where we want to demand that those providers say you're going to save in emergency room costs as an insurer, so you have to pay for the bed upfront."

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