Delaware’s opioid-related overdose deaths is the “health crisis of our generation,” state health leaders say. For those struggling with substance abuse, accessing treatment resources has been difficult. Some are overwhelmed trying to navigate the web of state services.
Sometimes space just isn’t available to get that person into treatment. Last year, just 38% of Delawareans diagnosed with substance abuse made it into treatment.
“Part of our challenge is that many people who are seeking treatment aren’t able to get into treatment at the right level of care,” said Dr. Kara Odom Walker, who leads the state Department of Health and Social Services. About 8,000 Delawareans who have a substance abuse disorder aren’t able to get treatment, she said, and the state needs to increase treatment capacity.
To make that process easier, Delaware has launched an online program similar to the restaurant reservation app OpenTable. Using the Delaware Treatment and Referral Network social workers, health care providers and others use the digital system to pinpoint where state treatment resources are available and reserve a space for a specific patient.
“It allows providers to look and see where there are open treatment appointments, so people can get in the next day,” Odom Walker said. In the program’s first four months, 3,400 referrals have been made.
It works like this: A doctor treating an ER patient for an overdose could recommend a detox facility and send an online referral. That referral could be approved in 30 minutes or less — guaranteeing that patient a spot in that facility without a phone call or fax.
The state Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health could then track that patient through the recovery process in hopes of getting a better understanding of what treatment methods are most effective for specific patients.
There is some misconception about what substance abuse treatment should look like, Odom Walker said.
“They think that they have to leave their job or their family or their regular course of business. What we’re trying to do is get the word out that you can start treatment whenever you’re ready,” she said.
And that might be different for each individual. Some people need a residential stay in a facility, she said. Others can get better through outpatient service.