More expenses than money to cover them will mean people who suffer from long-term drug and alcohol addiction may have to wait months longer to get into a program that provides counseling, therapy and help in holding a job, county health officials say.
And although the Health Department will try to get some help to any addict seeking it through the voluntary programs, it might have to be in another county orin Baltimore City, said Addictions Bureau chief Jo Riley-Kauer. The Health Department will try to get private programs to take some patients, she added.
State and federal budget cuts, and changes in regulations, have led Carroll's Health Department to cut by 37 the number of patients the Regan Recovery Center and Carroll Addictions Rehabilitation Center in Sykesville can take in, said Dr. Janet Neslen, the county's healthofficer, during a meeting Thursday to update the commissioners.
"I think we've seen the peak" of government funding, Neslen said. "We're on the downturn."
To avoid a deficit of about $125,000, the Regan Center will share space in the CARC, and both will take fewer patients, Riley-Kauer said. The two programs had occupied separate buildings at Springfield Hospital Center.
She said her department projected a deficit last November, based on increasing expenses and less money from private insurers.
Because of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's own budget cuts, it could not, as before, cover that deficit, and told the county Health Department three weeks ago to cut services if necessary, Riley-Kauer said.
While CARC offers a shorter-term treatment program, which lasts an average of 28 days, Regan provides long-term care for chronically addicted people in a program that lasts six to 18 months.
The Regan Center had about 35residents, and another 30 on the waiting list, when the department decided to move the center in with CARC. Ten patients who are ready tobe released are moving into halfway houses and other programs on theroad to independent living, Neslen said. The remaining 25 moved intothe center's new quarters last week.
CARC has 20 patients. Combining the two programs under one roof will offer some flexibility and allow the total 55 beds to be used according to need, Neslen said.
The two programs will continue to run separately, but share some staff, such as overnight workers, and overhead costs, Neslen said.
Neslen said one of the heaviest blows to the addiction-treatment programcame in late 1989, when changes in federal regulations meant medicalcare for Regan Center patients no longer was covered by Medicaid. The Health Department was left to pay.
The medical bills are high, Neslen said, because the drugs and alcohol the patients used left themwith many complications, such as liver problems or AIDS.