Local substance use clinics in central New York are reacting to President Donald Trump’s declaration of the opioid crisis as a public health emergency. Some officials said there are real solutions the federal government can do to save lives.
Syracuse Behavioral Healthcare President and CEO Jeremy Klemanski said it is too soon to tell what the declaration by the president will mean in terms of deploying resources. But, he said it does elevate the conversation across the country.
“Things are so bad, that our nation has recognized that this is a real emergency," Klemanski said. "This isn’t another drug epidemic. This is a situation that is claiming the lives of our families and it is having devastating impacts on future generations. It is our hope that with this declaration, Congress will take a look and say, there is going to have to be some money to support some of the efforts to do these things. While we've done some good things in the past, we're going to have to do more. We've made a down payment, now it's time to commit to doing some serious structural work on the treatment system.”
Klemanski said he wants the federal government to lift the restriction on doctors that limits the number of patients they can prescribe with Suboxone, which is used to treat opiate dependency. Doctors have to apply to prescribe the medication. In their first year, they are limited to 30 patients. After that, they can see up to 250 patients.
“Why are those limitations in place in the midst of a crisis?" Klemanski asked. "We understand that there have to be limitations on things in society. However, we don’t see similar limits on prescribing of opiates. Over-prescribing is part of what led us to this point in our current epidemic.”
Syracuse Behavioral Healthcare treated more than 5,500 patients last year, a number that had steadily increased. The vast majority of the patients were treated for opioids.