Report: Substance Abuse Treatment Limited for Cape and Islands Homeless

About_HACHYANNIS – The supply of substance abuse treatment in Massachusetts is being outpaced by demand, resulting in bottle-necking at all levels of care, according to a report from Housing Assistance Corporation.

The problem is worse on the Cape Cod and the Islands, where services are limited by capacity, scope, payment methods and the travel distances needed to get help.

These are some of the issues explored in a new white paper by HAC, called “Closer to Home: Substance Abuse Treatment Options for the Homeless on the Cape and Islands.”

“Experts in the field do point to housing being essential for folks being able to sustain they’re recovery and to get to their fullest potential as an individual,” said Noah Hoffenberg with HAC.

The report is an ongoing effort by HAC to develop white papers to help the Cape and Islands make informed decisions about the future of housing for the region’s diverse population.

HAC is highlighting substance use disorder in this report because it is an illness that is pervasive among their clients, affecting about 80 percent of their shelter guests and many of the other people they help with housing issues.

“The Cape and Islands mirror the rest of the state in that substance abuse treatment options are limited for just about everybody,” said Hoffenberg.

Key details in the report include:

  • Drug and alcohol detoxification bed occupancy hovers between 91 and 100 percent daily statewide, often translating in waits of three to five days for admittance. Also, only about 17 percent of people emerging from detox can find a readily available rehab bed. Waits for the homeless to get a long-term recovery bed can be as long as 10 weeks;
  • About 40 percent of the Cape’s treatment beds are occupied by people from outside the region, sending many Cape Codders and Islanders to the mainland for help;
  • Over the past five years, the Cape Cod Hospital Emergency Center has experienced a 78 percent increase in care hours related to mental health and substance use patients. Preventative care and housing options could reduce these visits dramatically, according to experts;
  • Reports show that stable housing initiatives, such as Housing First programs combined with community-based treatment, deliver better outcomes for housing retention and recovery, while also greatly reducing societal costs. On Cape Cod, it costs anywhere from $8,000 to $13,000 less per person per year with a Housing First apartment than a year in an emergency shelter, according to HAC figures.


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