Dying To Get Into Treatment: What Trying To Access Addiction Treatment Services Is Like For Many

Posted: February 3, 2016 in addiction, alcoholism, chemical dependence, family, health and wellness, mental health, Uncategorized
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By Brooke Feldman. https://www.facebook.com/feldman.brooke.m

Individuals seeking addiction treatment typically have the least amount of resources and the most complex of needs.

Do you know that feeling you get when you are sitting at your doctor’s office waiting to be seen and it’s 15 minutes past your scheduled appointment time and nobody has even checked in with you?

Do you know that feeling you get when you’re experiencing tremendous dental pain but are told “Sorry, the next available appointment isn’t until two weeks away”?

Do you know that feeling you get when you are on hold with your doctor’s office waiting to get a prescription called into the pharmacy and it feels like somebody must have forgotten you were on hold?

Well, if you take that feeling and multiply it exponentially, you will get a tiny glimpse of what countless individuals and families experience every day when trying to access addiction treatment services in America. Extraordinarily long wait times, an utter lack of engagement while waiting, poor customer service and a complete lack of communication often meet people at the entry point of attempting to receive treatment services. While there are many good addiction treatment providers who understand the importance of a warm and welcoming environment, there are far too many who do not – and then some who even go on to blame the individual seeking care for “not wanting it bad enough” when they don’t “stick out” the horrendous conditions in which they wait.

Our public behavioral health service systems are intended to serve the most vulnerable citizens of this country. The individuals and families seeking addiction treatment who are uninsured, under-insured or receiving Medicaid (i.e. welfare; medical assistance) insurance are typically those with the least amount of resources and the most complex of needs. While one would imagine that the treatment providers serving our most vulnerable citizens would deliver services in a manner that actively engages people into treatment, sadly this is often not the case. If you ask any individual or family who has attempted to access addiction treatment services in a public behavioral health system anywhere in this country, you are nearly guaranteed to hear some of the following experiences.

“I waited for three hours on a hard plastic chair before anybody came out to talk to me.”

“I was experiencing terrible withdrawal symptoms but was unable to receive any medical treatment until after I was admitted which was 11 hours after I first arrived.”

“Nobody even communicated with me or told me how long I’d (or my loved one) would have to wait.”

“I waited all day without being seen and then was told to come back the next day because the intake staff were done for the day”

You know that feeling you get when you still haven’t been seen by your doctor and it’s 15 minutes past your appointment time? Well, yeah, multiply that exponentially and you’ll get a glimpse of what many individuals and their families experience when attempting to access addiction treatment services. At a time of crisis and often a personal and family low point, we are expecting people to weather the type of service delivery that in no other healthcare or customer service venue would even the best of us be able to tolerate. Is it that we think people who struggle with addiction challenges don’t deserve better? Is it that we think people who struggle with addiction challenges aren’t important enough to be treated with human decency and respect? Is it that we don’t care how many people are literally dying trying to get into treatment?

There are many strategies behavioral health system leaders and addiction treatment providers can employ to better engage people into treatment. Below are just some examples and available in the literature for all are plenty of others:

1) Provide peer support services in waiting rooms, allowing individuals and family members with lived experience of navigating the system and sustaining recovery to provide encouragement, information and hope

2) Provide the type of waiting room furniture that you would be comfortable with yourself or a loved one spending hours and hours sitting on

3) Splurge on being able to provide water, coffee and something to eat for people who often haven’t eaten in days let alone the hours and hours they have been waiting

4) Ensure that regular communication is taking place and that staff are providing routine updates to individuals and families about wait times, next steps and what to expect in the process

5) Be prepared to serve people experiencing acute withdrawal symptoms and develop procedures that allow for the availability of medical care within a reasonable amount of time

6) Align federal, state and local funding and regulatory policies with a behavioral health system that can meet the demands of those it is there to serve

7) Do unto others as you would want done unto yourself

Listen to Brooke’s story on podcast here:

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BIO:

Brooke M. Feldman, MSW Candidate, University of Pennsylvania
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Brooke openly identifies as a member of the LGBTQ+ communities and a person in long-term recovery from a substance use disorder. What this means for Brooke is that she has has been able to stop the intergenerational transmission of addiction that claimed her mother’s life at a young age and has transformed her own life into one of wellness and service. After spending her adolescent years in and out of many behavioral health institutions and the juvenile justice system, Brooke began her recovery at age 24. Since that time, much of Brooke’s energy and efforts have gone into advocacy and action work geared toward making wellness and long-term recovery accessible to all. Having spent the past decade working in various direct care, community outreach, administrative/policy, program coordination and training roles under some of the field’s highest regarded leaders, Brooke has combined her lived experience with a wide spectrum of professional experiences to serve as a support to those in or seeking recovery. Brooke firmly believes that wellness and recovery is not about luck or good fortune but more so about individuals and families having access to what it is they need, when they need it and for however long they need it. Additionally, Brooke believes that the gifts and wisdom uncovered in the addiction recovery journey can and ought to be applied universally to the human experience and shared with the larger world.

Taking the Mask Off” is the new book by Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne. Cortland Pfeffer spent years as a patient in psychiatric hospitals, treatment centers, and jails before becoming a registered nurse and working in the same facilities. Based on his experience, this story is told from both sides of the desk. It offers a unique and valuable perspective into mental health and addiction, revealing the problems with the psychiatric industry while also providing the solution – one that brings together science, spirituality, philosophy, and personal experience
“Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution” is on Amazon, Barnes and Noble , and Balboa Press.

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