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Boston Needs More Substance Abuse Treatment Beds, Report Finds

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Boston does not have enough substance abuse treatment beds and there's a lack of coordination between various treatment programs, according to a new report that is intended to serve as a "blueprint" for the city's new Office of Recovery Services.

The report was conducted by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation and released Wednesday.

Foundation President Audrey Shelto says the report found that it's difficult to find out which recovery programs in Boston have openings and that disruptions in care, such as long wait times to get into a residential recovery program after detox, are a serious problem.

"People really struggle making progress through various stages of recovery because there are so many opportunities to fall through the cracks in between levels of care," Shelto said in an interview.

Because the substance abuse treatment system is a statewide system, the report notes that Boston's capacity gap reflects needs beyond city residents. The report found that Boston has a higher density of treatment and recovery beds than any other area of the state, but at any given time as many as 50 percent of those beds are used by non-city residents.

And wait times for residential placements across the state, the report foudn which comes after detox, average 23 days in 2014, according to the report.

The report recommends the city add beds for both detox and residential treatment and create a "central source of real-time information" about the availability of treatment services. It also recommends "a more cohesive and integrated continuum of care to reduce relapse."

The report notes that last year's closing of the bridge to Long Island, which was home to several recovery programs and homeless shelters, exacerbated the city's capacity problem.

"Compounding the existing challenges with addiction treatment and recovery services capacity, and diverting immediate attention from the larger issue of reforming Boston’s substance use recovery system, was the loss of 8 programs that were situated on Long Island," the report said.

The report says roughly 225 people receiving addiction treatment services on Long Island were forced to relocate when the bridge was deemed unsafe.

The report was commissioned by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh last month to provide recommendations for how the city's new Office of Recovery Services, which is expected to open soon, can "better align the city’s addiction and recovery services with demonstrated best practices."

Walsh announced Wednesday that the new office will be lead by Jennifer Tracey, who has 20 years of experience in the field, most recently at the state's Department of Public Health, where she oversaw programming for the state's young adult treatment service system and recovery high schools.

The mayor's office says the Office of Recovery Services will be the state's first municipal-based office to focus on the issue. It will operate under the Boston Public Health Commission.

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