Dr. Baxter Testifies before NJ State Senate on Prevention, Treatment and Recovery from Opiate Addiction

Dr. Baxter Testifies before NJ State Senate on Prevention, Treatment and Recovery from Opiate Addiction

Leading addiction care expert and Consulting Medical Director the BHOPB Professional Athletes’ Program, Dr. Louis E Baxter, MD, FASAM  was recently invited to offer testimony before the New Jersey State Senate on current and emerging trends in opiate addiction prevention, treatment and education. He was a part of a group of medical and addiction care experts assembled to discuss solutions to New Jersey’s growing heroin addiction epidemic.

Invited to speak at the October 17th hearing by New Jersey Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chair, Senator Robert Vitale, Doctor Baxter offered informative and compelling insight regarding the obstacles that opiate addiction patients face in their pursuit of quality treatment and continued recovery.

Among the topics discussed were the stigma and treatment access problems that patients often encounter, as well as insurance restrictions levied by healthcare providers. Perhaps the hardest-hitting anecdotal evidence of the need for improvement came when Dr. Baxter cited numerous opiate-related fatalities among adolescents who had been previously denied treatment by their insurance companies.

Dr. Baxter closed with making informed recommendations to start fixing the above problems and enacting reform to increase access to addiction treatment.

Addressing a State in Need of Help

There are countless numbers, statistics, trends and facts one can look at to begin understanding the toll heroin abuse and addiction has had on the Garden State. While it’s clear there is a problem, it’s also clear that state officials have been ineffective in attempting to curb it and wholesale changes need to be made to the current approach.[1]

Here are a list of statistics that came from the hearing:

  • There have been more than 700 opiate overdose deaths in the state since 2009.
  • 46 percent of addiction treatment admissions in 2012 were for heroin or opiates.
  • According to Dr. Baxter, overdoses were the leading cause of accidental deaths in the state during 2012. Of those deaths, 75 percent involved opiates.
  • Dr. Baxter also added that five of New Jersey’s 21 counties – Camden, Essex, Middlesex, Ocean and Monmouth – lead the nation in overdose deaths.
  • People die from heroin and opiate overdoses at a rate of one every two days in Camden County.
  • There are 72,000 people in NJ seeking treatment, and there are only 6,000 beds available.
  • According to a 2005 study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, only 3 cents of every dollar spent on addiction goes to prevention and treatment. The other 97 cents went to “shovel up after the fact.”
  • Governor Chris Christie estimated that it costs the state approximately $24,000 to treat an addict in the drug court program and $49,000 per year to put them in jail.

How to Stem the Tide in NJ

While there were a range of suggestions at the hearing for improving the standards of opiate addiction in the state, the overriding theme focused on improving and increasing the level of education for children, teens, parents and medical professionals. There was also a call for new research and medical findings about addiction prevention and treatment to be more quickly integrated into public policy.

It Begins With Patient Education

Dr. Baxter focused on the lack of educational services for patients and the fact that addiction is not treated the same as other chronic illnesses. He compared a diabetic patient receiving insulin to a heroin addict receiving methadone following an overdose. There are 72,000 people in NJ seeking treatment, and there are only 6,000 beds available.While the addict will simply be released from the hospital following treatment for the overdose, the diabetic patient will receive a full range of education to help them learn to manage their condition over a long period of time.[2]

He went on to say that detoxification should only be the first step in medical treatment. He recommended that treatment include rehabilitation counseling, medication-assisted therapy and continuous medical and mental health follow-up examinations. He also criticized the lack of long-term treatment facilities in the state and the tendency to allow addicts to return to the same environment which drove them to addiction.

Another point of focus for Dr. Baxter was on the need for the state to no longer require that patients receive prior authorization in order to receive insurance payments for treatment. He said that this practice has led to patients dying during the waiting period.

Improve Healthcare and Treatment Standards

According to Susan Foster, vice president and director of policy research at CASA, part of the reason why people in need aren’t receiving treatment is a lack of referrals from primary care providers. Foster pointed out that only 11 percent of people who need treatment receive it, with less than six percent coming from referrals by healthcare providers, showing an inability to identify risky behavior and when people need substance abuse treatment. 2

She added that addiction treatment providers need to have a minimum standard of care and treatment to meet. CASA officials recommended that states increase screening for early detection of addiction or problematic substance abuse and to make state and federal funding for addiction treatment centers conditional, based on providers following appropriate treatment practices.

Elite South Florida Opiate Addiction Treatment Available

At Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches, we fully understand the depth of the opiate addiction epidemic plaguing New Jersey, Florida and the rest of the United States. Our in-house research team has conducted several studies and implements evidence-based treatment strategies in helping our patient population reclaim control over their lives by defeating addiction.

We applaud the steps taken by the New Jersey State Senate in recognizing the need for a new approach in combating heroin and opiate addiction. This is a nationwide problem that will require a collective effort to resolve.

If you or someone you know is in New Jersey, or anywhere else in the country, and are in need of specialized, long-term treatment, Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches is a great option. We work with leading addiction care experts like Dr. Baxter, utilize cutting edge therapies and employ a staff of caring mental health professionals to provide the highest possible level of addiction treatment. Please contact one of our representatives today to learn more, inquire about intervention services or begin treatment.