HCAT Continues Drug Issue Discussion

The growing drug problem in the area has led one group to produce a position statement on the issue.

The Health Care Action Team has finalized its drug issue summary. Dr. Lillian Vitanza Ney, Health Care Action Team chairperson, said the position statement was sent to the Jamestown City Council and the Strategic Planning and Partnerships Commission. The Health Care Action Team is a working group of the Strategic Planning and Partnerships Commission, and was formed to focus on the impact of health care on development in the community, as well as accessible, high-quality health care for residents.

”We wanted to get together as the Health Care Action Team because we are composed of pretty much every health care organization,” Ney said. ”We came together to discuss the problem, and then we came to a consensus as far as recommendations we wanted to present to the county executive (Vince Horrigan) for the drug forum he and Pat Brinkman (Chautauqua County Mental Hygiene Department commissioner) have planned for (Wednesday).”

The action team’s position paper states there is considerable concern over the growing drug problem in the area, which includes the use of heroin, bath salts, crystal meth, suboxone misuse and fentanyl-laced heroin.

”Our area mirrors what is occurring in the nation at large. There is also concern that prescription opiates, often given liberally, are part of the gateway to drug addiction,” the action team statement said. ”Heroin addiction affects every demographic, it is not a moral failing of the individual but rather a disease, and treatment avenues are limited, hard to access and often not covered by insurances.”

The statement also includes several areas of focus, which includes: the need for a safe area to dispose of unused narcotics; education on the nature, implications and danger of narcotics addiction; and the need for long-term rehabilitation because most addicts require lengthy treatment periods.

The statement also mentioned areas of opportunities to help those battling drug addiction. The opportunities include a shift in the focus for youth education from smoking, marijuana and alcohol toward opiates; working to establish a detox facility that can help addicts withdraw for about two weeks under medical supervision; and establishing an in-patient, 90-day rehab program post detox that is medically supervised.

”It was important to have many varied organizations discussing and providing input to this very important topic,” Ney said. ”We trust that the forum and continued conversations thereafter will bring creative, cooperative and collaborative solutions.”

In other business, the action team agreed where to focus its physician recruitment incentive grant. Ney said the group feels it is best to use the grant money toward signing and retention bonuses and loan replacement payments. The action team has been working on recruiting doctors for local medical organizations for the past two years. In that time, they have helped to recruit six physicians.

”We agreed they (medical organizations) would utilize (the physician recruitment grant) for these three reasons rather than to cover other expenses like travel or salary,” Ney said.

The action team has been working toward raising money to offer more of a recruitment incentive to physicians to come work in the area. Ney said the previous incentive was $10,000, but now they want to offer $20,000 to $50,000 based on the physician’s area of expertise. Last month, the group hosted a meeting with local foundation groups to recruit funds for the physician grants. Ney said they are still awaiting word from area foundations on grants.

Ney also said there was discussion around a physician recruiter to focus and devote more time to the task. She said the conversation evolved to a more comprehensive discussion of a marketer for the area, with the group pointing out that it might be best to have a county-wide marketer.