Drug programs need improved emergency plans, audit finds
Some addiction treatment programs in New York may not be adequately prepared in an emergency to prevent gaps in care, according to a newly released audit by New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.
The audit, which looked at treatment providers and programs between 2019 through 2022, found the state's Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS) must improve its oversight and monitoring of nearly 400 certified providers.
“The COVID-19 pandemic led to significant disruptions in addiction care and services, leaving many vulnerable New Yorkers susceptible to relapse,” said New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.
Opioid deaths skyrocketed by 44% in 2020 compared to the year before while the number of inpatients decreased by 33%, according to DiNapoli's office.
Providers believed fewer people were getting help because of the possibility of catching COVID-19 and limited admission of visitors to treatment facilities.
"Some of the clients did not want to attend Zoom, some wanted to attend in person and that was accommodated according to the guidelines but overall there was a fear factor of people not showing up," said Dair Melendez-Drier, the clinical director of The Counseling Center in Yorktown.
Auditors found that OASAS needs to improve its guidance for emergency plans, improve its system to locate missing patients in the event of an emergency, and enhance the accuracy of its waitlist data.
According to DiNapoli, OASAS responded to the audit by saying it would direct all providers to incorporate any newly issued recommendations into the operations and emergency plans however it maintained its guidance to providers during the pandemic was clear.
Melendez-Drier echoed a similar statement saying OASAS provided treatment facilities like hers with immediate guidance to pivot to once the pandemic intensified in early 2020.
News 12 reached out to OASAS for a comment on the audit.
Drug overdose deaths reached another record high in the United States, according to the latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.