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Massena Memorial Hospital has eyes on adding addiction treatment beds in 2019


Massena Memorial Hospital could add chemical dependency treatment beds early in 2019.

The comment comes from MMH CEO Bob Wolleben, on the heels of a Department of Health memo where state regulators waived limits on how many addiction treatment beds a hospital can offer. Through Dec. 31, the department is waiving the five-bed limit at acute care hospitals. They will decide whether or not to extend the waiver.

Opioids have claimed numerous lives northern New York and southern Ontario, and one in the first quarter of the following year. The numbers come from a state Department of Health opioid report, and are the most recent available.

Right now, MMH is referring patients with opioid addiction and other chemical dependency needs to St. Joseph, which offers inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation throughout the North Country.

“We have a relationship with St. Joe’s rehabilitation … they have an outpatient presence on our campus now. We have been talking with them to eventually offer some inpatient services,” Wolleben said. “That would probably be at the earliest sometime next year.”

MMH would not have to make any major changes to apply to DOH for a treatment bed waiver.

“We’d be able to do it as we are now. As the letter says, there is a temporary window where hospitals can apply. If we don’t apply by the temporary window and go through the process that existed previously, it would be OASAS,” the CEO said.

He said they are well aware of how the opioid epidemic is negatively affecting the region, and they want to be able to offer services to help fight it.

“We’ve obviously heard about the community need and we’re trying to, in a responsible way, respond to it. The first step was to work with St. Joe’s to get outpatient there,” Wolleben said. “We want to do it correctly. We want to walk before we run.”

Massena does have inpatient treatment beds for patients up to age 20, at Rose Hill Adolescent Residential Program.

Rose Hill program director Tina Buckley said they just added seven beds, bringing them to a total of 28.

The seven beds were added to their program for ages 12 to 15, so they now have 14 for that age group, in addition to 14 for ages 16 to 20.

She said they will probably not add more beds in the immediate future.

[St. Joe’s] are currently in the process and they have approval for a 24-hour access center in Saranac Lake and they’re hoping to get into that as soon as possible … end of this year beginning of next,” Buckley said, adding that the center would include detox and outpatient services.

Offering a word of advice to people having trouble finding a chemical dependency beds during a time when they are in short supply -- be persistent.

“I think there are available beds out there. They just need to be persistent and keep calling and keep trying to access those beds,” Buckley said.


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