HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Storm Chaos Cuts Help For Addicts
Pubdate: Sun, 11 Sep 2005
Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)
Copyright: 2005 Chicago Tribune Company
Author: John Keilman
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Methadone)
Bookmark: (Treatment)


Recovery Programs, Clinics Jammed By Patients Set Adrift

At the Baton Rouge Treatment Center, people suffering a unique, 
hurricane-related misery have poured in by the hundreds, waiting as long as 
two hours each day for relief.

The center is one of the few places remaining in Louisiana where they can 
get methadone, a medication given to those addicted to heroin or other 
opiate drugs. Without it, they face a harrowing withdrawal certain to 
compound their already considerable despair.

The suffering of drug addicts might not garner much public sympathy in the 
face of the overwhelming agony stirred by Hurricane Katrina, but some say 
it's a plight not to be ignored.

"They're people. Don't we care about the people?" said Kathleen 
Kane-Willis, a Roosevelt University researcher who has pushed for greater 
aid for displaced heroin addicts. "Why should we make a judgment that the 
people who use drugs aren't deserving of care?"

Among the estimated 1 million people left homeless by Katrina are thousands 
of drug abusers and alcoholics, some who have never been in treatment but 
many who have been torn from recovery programs.

Doctors, counselors and treatment centers across the country are trying to 
fill the void left by the disaster, bringing in supplies, volunteering 
their services, even offering free residential care to refugees.

"We are admitting a 19-year-old girl who was in a treatment center in New 
Orleans and was displaced," said John Schwarzlose of the Betty Ford Center 
in California, where a 30-day stay normally costs $20,000. "She went from 
there to a shelter. I don't know if she's been drinking and using. We'll 
find out when she gets here."

Even before the hurricane, Louisiana suffered a dearth of treatment options 
for drug and alcohol abusers. As many as 1,800 clogged waiting lists on any 
given day, said Samantha-Hope Atkins of Hope Networks, a recovery advocacy 
group in Baton Rouge.

"Very few people realized that Louisiana had 32 medical detox beds for 4 
million residents," she said. "Twenty are in [New Orleans'] Charity 
Hospital, which is gone."

Katrina wiped out other recovery options as well. The New Orleans area 
hosted dozens of 12-step meetings every day, and the city's methadone 
clinics served about 1,300 patients.

Some were able to find help after evacuating. The Baton Rouge Treatment 
Center picked up an extra 200 methadone patients, but infusions of staffers 
from other clinics have allowed the center to persevere despite long lines 
that promise only to get longer.

"We know they're just going to keep coming," said clinic director Carl Kelley.

A spokesman for Alcoholics Anonymous in Houston said the group has offered 
meetings in the Astrodome and George R. Brown Convention Center, and 
federal officials said the same is happening in shelters across the country.

Some addicts appear to be treating their addictions in other ways. A 
Reuters reporter in New Orleans earlier this week found several opiate 
addicts buying or bartering for looted morphine, prescription painkillers 
or sleeping pills outside a Bourbon Street bar.

Charles Curie, head of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services 
Administration, said the federal government has released $600,000 to help 
pay for treatment for displaced people. More will be available as Congress 
provides additional funds, he said.

Curie said the hurricane could harm more than those who lost their 
treatment programs. History shows that trauma causes drug and alcohol 
problems for others--including police and medics--to increase.

"We can anticipate . . . spikes in abuse after an event like this," he said.

Recovery specialists from across the country have vowed to help.

Hope Networks' Atkins said some of the nation's largest treatment centers 
have offered to provide free transportation and accommodations, while 
smaller groups have donated Big Books--the bible of AA.

Dr. Sarz Maxwell, medical director for the Chicago Recovery Alliance, is 
hoping to provide relief in person. She said a drug manufacturer has 
released $50,000 worth of Suboxone, a methadone-like medication for heroin 
addicts, and she is trying to get federal permission to distribute the drug 
to those not yet in treatment programs.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Elizabeth Wehrman