Long Island is not equipped to offer treatment and detoxification to a growing number of heroin addicts, a drug and alcohol addiction expert told Suffolk County lawmakers Thursday.
Jeffrey L. Reynolds, executive director of Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, testified that the region lacks drug treatment facilities and hospital beds for detoxing patients.
"Getting someone into detox at this point in time is an exercise in futility," Reynolds told the county Legislature's Health Committee.
With the state cracking down on prescription painkillers, street prices on drugs such as oxycodone and hydrocodone have shot up, officials say. Reynolds said some of those addicted to pills seek help, but are turned away and ultimately end up on heroin, which often is cheaper and more readily available.
"A lot of people are at a crossroads," said Reynolds, who had no figures on the number of treatment or detox spots that are available. "Our community by and large doesn't have a lot of resources in it, is not supportive of recovery."
Committee chairman William Spencer (D-Centerport) called the hearing following the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman in Manhattan. Hoffman was found Sunday morning dead of a heroin overdose.
Arthur Flescher, director of the Suffolk Health Department's division of community mental hygiene services, said heroin use has seen a "resurgence" given the state legislation that put tighter controls on legal opiates.
Flescher told the committee he agreed with Reynolds' testimony. He added, though, that the county was working with Catholic Charities on adding a detoxification program. The Department of Health is educating substance abuse providers on opiate addiction, he said. But "the key problem" is that insurance companies refuse to cover rehab, without patients first failing outpatient treatments.
A state law to monitor and regulate prescription drugs, called I-STOP, went into effect in August. But efforts to fund treatment failed.
Reynolds said five years ago, his nonprofit, with three offices on Long Island, served 100 families. Last month, it was up to 767 families.
Spencer said there was a "glimmer of hope" in the decrease in prescription drug abuse. "I think anytime you start to make an impact on the problem, you have some unintended consequences, but I still think that is part of the road to solving the problem," he said.