Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Backlog at State-Run Treatment Facilities Means Long Waits for Minnesotans Suffering from Severe Addictions

Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Backlog at State-Run Treatment Facilities Means Long Waits for Minnesotans Suffering from Severe Addictions

Article excerpt

Minnesotans suffering from severe drug addictions are getting wait-listed.

Some are waiting at home. Others are languishing in detox facilities or hospital beds intended for short-term medical care. Some are sitting in jail cells.

On July 1, the state cut 66 beds from its six state-run, residential drug treatment programs, bringing the collective count down to 108, according to Department of Human Services (DHS) data. The programs -- known as Community Addiction Recovery Enterprise, or CARE -- serve patients with severe addiction, usually accompanied by other mental illnesses.

Before July, the CARE programs took a mix of patients who came for help voluntarily and those ordered into treatment by the courts. Now the centers only accept clients committed by a judge, a measure reserved for extreme cases, such as when a person can no longer take care of him/herself or has become a danger to self or others as a result of addiction.

As of mid-August, 43 patients were on the waiting lists, according to the data. The CARE center in Carlton had the longest wait, with a 7-8 week backlog. In Fergus Falls, patients were waiting 3-4 weeks to get in.

Here's the full waitlist, according to DHS:

CARE Site Patients Waiting

(as of 8/13) Estimated Wait

Anoka 17 2-3 Weeks

Brainerd 4 4-7 Days

Carlton 10 7-8 Weeks

Fergus Falls 8 3-4 Weeks

St. Peter 1 No Wait

Willmar 4 4 Days

These delays amount to a serious problem, said Ashley Erickson, spokeswoman for Minnesota Association for Professional Employees, or MAPE, the union that represents about 1,800 DHS staff. While these patients wait for a bed to open, there is no designated place for them to stay.

"There's no way to stay in touch with them," said Erickson. "We're worried about them ending up in jail or on the streets. We're worried about them causing harm to themselves or others."

So far this year, the majority of patients admitted to the CARE programs have come from hospitals, like Hennepin County Medical Center. Megen Cullen, senior director of psychiatry at HCMC, said they commonly languish in beds for months designated for general medical care, not chemical dependency treatment. …

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