Union Hospital Proposes Short Term Drug Detox Center; Could Seek County Subsidy

February 11, 2015

Union Hospital is considering creation of a non-profit entity in Cecil County to operate an 8 to 12-bed short-term drug detoxification program outside a hospital setting and may ask the county government to subsidize the operation, a hospital official told county leaders on Tuesday.

At the same time, the hospital has already created a separate limited liability company in partnership with the Upper Chesapeake Health system in Harford County aimed at creating another operation that would address both drug abuse and mental health problems, since the region lacks adequate mental health professional care.

The proposals were outlined in broad terms by Dave Gipson, Union Hospital’s Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, during a meeting of the county’s Board of Health—which consists of the county executive, the County Council, and the county health officer.

County Council members have talked about Union’s plans previously although the hospital had insisted the proposals were still too preliminary to discuss in any detail. [SEE previous CECIL TIMES report here: http://ceciltimes.com/2014/12/union-hospital-considers-short-term-drug-abuser-detox-program-cecil-county-councilors-urge-support/ ]

Gipson’s presentation was still short on specifics and he said a firmer concept for a Cecil County operation would likely not be developed until June. He said the hospital was working on developing a “business plan” and meeting with various groups that might partner in the creation of “a new non-profit entity.”

Under questioning from Council members, Gipson said the facility would not be located near the Elkton hospital, would have an estimated 8 to 12 beds, and patients would stay from three to ten days while they underwent a medically-supervised detoxification from drugs.

He also said that there would have to be a mix of funding sources, including “fee for service” if patients had insurance, Medicaid, and possible “county support.” He cited Boise, Idaho, where the local government subsidizes a drug treatment program in partnership with local hospitals and health agencies.

“It will never pay for itself,” Gipson said of the proposed Cecil County program.

However, a for-profit national business, Recovery Centers of America, sees enough potential for making money in drug treatment here to have purchased the former Bracebridge Hall estate in rural Earleville. The property recently received county zoning approval for a “special exception” for a hospital in the rural area and the County Council amended the water and sewer master plan to expedite the project. The zoning application provided for up to 150 beds for a 30-day in-patient treatment program.

Gipson said Union’s proposed concept was not a long-term solution to Cecil County’s serious drug abuse problems, but “a piece of the puzzle.” Patients would be released after a few days, with the intention of getting them follow-up services through other local agencies and programs. To enter the short-term detox, patients would need a medical referral and could not just walk in for services, and it would not be “a drop-off site for law enforcement” officers who apprehend drug abusers.

“I think we can truly be a leader on this for the state,” Gipson said. He added that the drug abuse problem was “high on the radar” in Cecil County and citizens and public officials are willing to pitch in to support solutions.

County Councilor Alan McCarthy (R-1), who is the County Council’s representative to the county’s Drug and Alcohol Abuse Council, said, “At first blush, I’m really excited” with the proposal. But he raised questions about how the financing would be worked out.

Gipson said that Medicaid—the jointly funded state/federal program providing health coverage to low-income people—would provide “a significant income stream to cover these services.” And by treating patients in a cheaper, non-hospital setting, Medicaid would actually be saving money over emergency room treatments. Nurse practitioners and drug counselors would provide most of the direct patient care, but under supervision of a physician.

Part of the problem of delivering such services in the area is a lack of appropriate medical professionals, and Gipson said he had been trying to recruit a psychiatrist to Elkton for nearly a year. He added that Cecil and Harford counties both lack adequate psychiatric professionals and Union and Upper Chesapeake calculate there is “an immediate need” for such care for 2,000 people in the two counties.

During council members’ comments in a worksession later in the day, Councilor Joyce Bowlsbey (R-2) voiced concerns that local citizens need to be more accepting of drug rehab programs in their communities. She attended a recent Elkton town board meeting, at which neighbors objected to a planned sober-living house for recovering drug and alcohol abusers.

“It deteriorated into name-calling and accusations,” she said. But if more people are to get short-term detox services, they will need a safe and sober environment to make their recovery a success, Bowlsbey said.

Council President Robert Hodge (R-5) agreed, saying “there will be a need for longer term recovery centers” and there haven’t been problems with some of the recovery or sober living houses that have been established in the county recently. “We all need to be part of the solution,” Hodge said.

During the Board of Health meeting, County Executive Tari Moore said she believed Cecil County was “a little bit ahead of the curve” in comparison with other counties because Cecil recognized the drug epidemic and began working on solutions earlier than others.

Ken Collins, Moore’s “drug czar” advisor and an employee of the local health department, was pleased that “things are happening in the community” to address the drug problem. He noted training of about 200 citizens in how to reverse a potentially lethal overdose with administration of Narcan nasal mist, as well as training and equipping all law enforcement and emergency responders in the county. He said that 13 lives had been saved in the county this year through such efforts.

He said that 18 months ago there were no ‘recovery’ or sober living houses in the county and now there are six.

Stephanie Garrity, the county health officer, said, “It’s going to take years to fix” the drug problem, but “I think we can turn the corner on this.”

State officials have reported 22 drug overdose related deaths in Cecil County for the first three quarters of 2014 but have not yet released to the public the data for the final three months of the year. For all of 2013, Cecil County had 26 drug-related fatalities.

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4 Responses to Union Hospital Proposes Short Term Drug Detox Center; Could Seek County Subsidy

  1. Jeannette H on February 12, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    I for one will never be understanding of a drug and alcohol rehab program in the vicinity of my home. I pay taxes on my property for peace and serenity. Why do we the taxpayers have to bear the brunt of additional taxes to provide detox services to individuals who have caused the problem to themselves. I’m tired of my hard earned money being used to subsidize these drug and alcohol abusers.

    There is a wonderful program at Christiana Hospital with all the infrastructure already available. Union Hospital already has a working relationship with Christiana Care, so why the duplication of services?

  2. Ron Lobos on February 14, 2015 at 9:35 am

    It should probably be pointed out that this is a detox facility and not a rehab. There is a difference. Detox is a very short term solution to the drug problem and takes about 3-5 days to achieve. This is actually only the first step to recovery. Rehab is a long term program that is much harder to achieve with a low success rate.

    They are discussing the possibility of funding 8-12 beds for detox. This is paramount considering that the VA in Perryville has only 10 beds committed to our veterans.

    I understand how some people don’t want any drug treatment facilities in their neighborhood because of the threat of drug activity, but I don’t think drug addicts are looking to purchase their drugs near a detox facility. I applaud all efforts to snuff out this cancer to society.

  3. Joe C on February 15, 2015 at 9:45 pm

    I suggest funding the facility to be partially funded with some of the assets seized from drug dealers, that way the people who are partially responsible pay to fix the mess they created and not the taxpayer who is already dealing with the runaway spending of Tari Moore and her posse on the council.

  4. Erin M. on March 24, 2015 at 8:19 pm

    The County itself should own and operate the detox facility and roll the profits over into its own coffers. Drug treatment is very lucrative and “non-profit” hospitals are some of the most profitable in the nation. With the advent of the ACA, almost all chronic drug users requiring drug treatment would be covered by Medicaid; thus the county (or whatever entity) is guaranteed reimbursement for 100% of patients at set rates.

    There are several counties across the nation currently maintaining these kind of centers; Cecil County should follow suit.

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