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Delaware Requests More Money for Addiction Services in Light of Rising Heroin Abuse

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Like other states across the nation, Delaware is battling a significant increase in heroin abuse. To help combat this rising rate of addiction, Delaware’s health department recently requested ramping up budgeting for addiction treatment and support programs in its quest for an impactful solution.

Delaware’s heroin use reaches epidemic proportions

From a historical standpoint, Delaware has hardly been the face of the America’s drug problems, but its current condition has the state front and center in the conversation about the rising tide of heroin abuse across the country.

In 1987, Delaware Health and Social Services (DHSS) reported a mere 397 heroin users sought help from state-funded addiction treatment centers. In less than 30 years, that number shot through the roof, with DHSS reporting 2,750 people sought help for heroin abuse in 2013. That number is only for admissions to state-funded facilities, so it does not include the multitude of people who sought help from private treatment centers. A small increase in treatment admissions wouldn’t necessarily indicate a surge in use; it could simply mean that a few more people are getting help. However, when a state whose estimated population is less than one million people witnesses an eightfold increase in heroin-related treatment admissions, it becomes apparent that there is a serious problem.

As is the case in other regions where heroin abuse has spiked in recent years, Delaware’s epidemic is tied to a rising incidence of prescription painkiller addiction. In the 1980s, opiate addiction was not even on the radar in Delaware, but throughout the years, more and more people became addicted to prescription painkillers. In 2012, there were nearly 1,800 registered admissions to public treatment programs of people addicted to legal opiates – an all-time high in Delaware. Since the state began cracking down on doctors and their prescription policies, opiates were harder to obtain. The increase in supply and demand made them more expensive. That’s when heroin presented itself as a much cheaper and more easily attainable substance that offered similar effects.

More than $4 million requested for addiction services in Delaware

In light of those staggering increases, Delaware has recognized the severity of its heroin problem and the effect it is having not only on those suffering from addiction, but on their families, friends and the community at large. That’s why in late November, DHSS requested more than $4 million of the state’s 2016 budget be allocated to supporting treatment programs. The $4.45 million requested would be utilized by the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health and Division of Public Health to expand bed space and access to treatment centers statewide, and to bolster programs aimed at curbing teenage prescription drug use.

Although the budget has yet to be approved, the health department’s requests are an encouraging sign for several reasons. First of all, the need to expand rehabilitation centers and increase their capacity for treatment shows there is a growing number of people suffering from addiction who are actively seeking help; having the state work to accommodate those requests shows the sincerity of its efforts. The state also recognizes that helping people before they ever even become addicted is an equally important strategy in the battle against drug abuse, spurring their desire to increase funding for educational and preventative programs. This twofold approach of prevention and treatment has proven to be more effective than a purely punitive approach in other regions, and hopefully Delaware will approve the funding it needs to experience similar success of its own.

Getting Help

Although the state of Delaware is the latest to recognize a major drug abuse problem and suggest impactful government changes to address it, it is hardly the only place where people are suffering from substance abuse. Addiction is a disease that does not discriminate and is difficult to overcome, but regardless of your circumstances, it is never too late to start on the road to recovery. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, call The Watershed today at 1-800-861-1768.

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