Sen. Brown pushing for drug treatment change

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Administrators at one area drug treatment center are hoping proposed legislation in Washington will allow them to offer help to more people who need it.

Right now, there are federally-imposed limits on the numbers of clients centers like Meridian Community Care can allow into its medically-assisted treatment programs each year. The programs provide prescription drugs to help ease an addict’s withdrawal symptoms, as well as their craving for more opiates like heroin. 

David Ross, 58, of Youngstown, used the program at Meridian to become clean and sober over a year ago. He said he has been using drugs for at least 40 or 45 years.

“I tried before, many times, but all because of this program, it gave me the necessary tools to allow myself to say that,” Ross said.

Doctors were able to prescribe a drug known as Suboxone to ease his withdrawal symptoms and curb his need to use opiates.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, introduced a bill, known as the Treat Act, to lift the caps on treatment about a month ago. He said more than 2 million people are addicted to opiates like heroin across the country, claiming statistics show five Ohioans are dying each day from drug overdoses.

Administrators at Meridian Community Care said they have seen a huge increase in the numbers of would-be clients looking for help, saying they have seen a three-fold increase in addicts looking for help this year over last.

“People are scared. People who have been using opiates maybe for a longer period of time, they are seeing friends and loved ones die. It is driving them in. They want help now, but the second thing is, they are able to get help because of the Medicaid expansion,” Dr. Daniel Brown of Meridian Community Care said.

Dr. Brown said five or six years ago, the agency had 85 clients in the medically-assisted treatment program. They now have close to 700, and the federal caps lead to waiting lists for service.

“Patients who come and show up at our door, they want help. Often times, they want help now. And you have got to capture them when they need that help and when they are ready for that help. If we turn them away and tell them ‘you’re gonna have to come back later’, they may not come back. We may lose them. They may overdose. They may die,” he said.

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