Cleveland County Rehabs Struggle To Keep Up With Demand As Opiate Crisis Worsens

By David Konow 09/02/16

Medicaid reimbursement restrictions and the growing number of opiate users has led to a shortage of beds in Cuyahoga County rehabs.

Cleveland County Rehabs Struggle To Keep Up With Demand As Opiate Crisis Worsens

A common problem that plagues the recovery process is the lack of availability of beds in rehabs where a patient can finally land and get help. In August, a rash of overdoses hit the Cincinnati, Ohio area, resulting in a shocking 174 overdoses reported in a six-day period. More startling statistics have just emerged out of Cuyahoga County, another Ohio county located around 250 miles away from the recent overdose wave.

According to Cleveland Scene, there’s one bed available for every 52 heroin addicts in Cuyahoga County—but when addicts hooked on oxycodone, hydrocodone and fentanyl are factored in, you find that there’s really only one bed for every 207 people suffering from opiate addiction.

There are only 387 beds for inpatient treatment for Cuyahoga County, an area that has somewhere between 70,000 to 90,000 people abusing painkillers and heroin, according to SAMHSA. On top of this, there are only 63 beds available for patients who need to detox, which puts the ratio to one detox bed for every 318 addicts. (According to Wikipedia, Cuyahoga County is the most populated county in Ohio, with over 1.2 million people living there.)

Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish says that one problem is the reimbursement restrictions from Medicaid that limit the availability of treatment beds. Cleveland Scene reports that these restrictions, which were established in the 1960s, have not been changed in two decades—but if they were modified, it could allow dozens more beds to be available.

"We're asking that they remove the restrictions on the addiction side and either double it or just remove it altogether,” said William Denihan, CEO of the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board of Cuyahoga County, which funds nearly half of the 387 treatment beds in the county. "This is critical: getting the beds and offering long-term sobriety."

Denihan added, “Our capacity has not changed. That capacity of beds and availabilities for detox is one of the major dilemmas that we have right now. We just don’t have the funds for those, and that’s a very critical point right now.”

Along with the lack of beds in rehab, even more grim statistics have been reported in the Canton Repository, which states that a record number of people have died from drug overdoses in Ohio last year—over 3,000—and over a third of them died from fentanyl. (Fentanyl-related deaths in Ohio alone have more than doubled from 503 in 2014 to 1,155 in 2015.)

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.