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Substance Abuse Treatment Gets Boost From San Diego County

San Diego Skyline on May 15, 2018.

Photo by Ebone Monet

Above: San Diego Skyline on May 15, 2018.

Bryan Sharp is vice president of admissions at Pacific Bay Recovery, a drug and alcohol treatment center in San Diego. He is often the first person to make contact with new patients.

“They are in a very vulnerable state. They’re depressed. They’re scared. They’re sad. They’re going through this mixed emotion,” he said.

Pacific Bay treats about 300 people a year for substance abuse. Seventy percent of those patients are addicted to opioids.

Now San Diego County is providing more resources to fight the opioid epidemic that is gripping the country.

The county is implementing the Drug Medi-Cal Organized Delivery System. This means more federal Medicaid funds to enhance substance abuse treatment services. Spending in this area will go from $54.6 million to $179.6 million over the next three years.

State numbers show 1,882 people died from opioid overdoses in 2017, 272 of those death were in San Diego County.

Photo by Ebone Monet

Bryan Sharp, vice president of admissions at San Diego's Pacific Bay Recovery treatment center, April 24, 2018.

Last year, more than 11,300 people received substance use treatment at county-funded centers. The new system will allow for a 30 percent increase in people served.

Currently, county-funded opioid treatment programs report an average wait time of 14 days for residential treatment programs. The standard under the Drug Medi-Cal Organized Delivery System is 24 hours.

“Right now we have somewhere between 40 and 45 percent of people who complete their treatment but we got to be better than that. We got to be able to show that they’re actually achieving good outcomes in terms of their life, in terms of staying sober over the long haul,” said Alfredo Aguirre, director of Behavioral Health Services for San Diego County.

Aguirre says the combination of prescription drug abuse and use of heroin is fueling the opioid crisis.

Sharp hopes the county’s new approach to substance abuse treatment will help free more people of addiction. He himself battled an addiction to opiates.

“I had become so dependent and addicted to those medications that there wasn’t enough out there that they could give me,” he said.

Sharp describes his sobriety as a second chance at life.

“Even my worst day now doesn’t compare or even come close to my best days then,” he said.

The county will triple spending on treating addiction over the next three years.


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