Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Freeholders Ask Hospital to Expand Drug Detox

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Freeholders Ask Hospital to Expand Drug Detox

Article excerpt

Three Bergen County freeholders want the private operator of the county-owned Bergen Regional Medical Center to expand its drug detoxification unit to help deal with the epidemic of heroin addiction in the county.

But hospital officials say they have already taken the first steps toward increasing the 54 beds currently available for short- term treatment of recovering drug and alcohol addicts.

The issue comes at a time when heroin-related deaths in Bergen County have spiked. The New Jersey Medical Examiners office reported in June that there were 42 heroin-related deaths in 2014, a 61 percent increase over 2013 and the third-largest increase of any county in the state.

Freeholders Thomas Sullivan, Joan Voss and Tracy Zur sent a letter Thursday to County Executive James Tedesco asking him to "pursue a dialogue" with Bergen Regional officials about expanding services.

"We are all well aware of the heroin epidemic in our midst," the freeholders wrote. "We have attended too many funerals for people who have lost their battles to addiction."

The freeholders said they were concerned after hearing a presentation earlier this month from Sue Debiak, coordinator of the county Office of Alcohol and Dependency Services. Among other topics, she talked about the need for more beds on the detoxification units.

"We have been told that it is the norm for residents in need to be turned away and told to return the next day by 6 a.m. when they may have better luck," the freeholders wrote. "This is unacceptable."

A spokeswoman for Bergen Regional Medical Center LLC, which operates the Paramus hospital, said recent demand for the detoxification unit has convinced hospital officials of the need to expand.

"The hospital is committed to providing this essential service and is ever mindful of the needs of its consumers." spokeswoman Donnalee Corrieri wrote in an email. …

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