Treatment Magazine
March 2009

3/21/09  - ATIN -  After regulators banned smoking at addiction treatment centers throughout the state mid year last, treatment providers across New York are complaining bitterly, saying that patient days have plummeted in the wake of what is increasingly looking like an arbitrary and ill considered move on the part of the state addictions industry overseer OASAS.

John Haley, the highly regarded chief operating officer of Westhampton-based Seafield Center, estimates that patient days statewide may have fallen by an astounding one-third in the six months or so since state regulators promulagated the no smoking rule. "This has had a devastating impact on the operations and financials of treatment centers virtually everywhere in the state, including ourselves," says Haley, adding that the highly unpopular move by state regulators has served as a kind on one-two punch for addictions services providers. "The recession hit and now this," Haley says. "It hasn't been easy to say the least."

"We have seen our AMA's ["against medical advice" discharges, meaning clients are leaving treatment early, before completion, in droves] soar since the rule was put into effect," Haley said, adding that he has heard of similar effects at many other centers with which he has been in contact in recent months.

But what may be highly unpopular with clients, and prove to be very bad business for providers, may indeed just be very good clinical practice, according to Dr. Harold Urschel, one of the nation's most respected addictionologists. 'The research shows that smoking acts as a pretty powerful trigger for relapse," Urschel says. "And if you can get people to quit smoking in the early stages of recovery, that long-term recovery is achieved very significantly more than for those that do not quit smoking."

Over the past three years, Urschel, who also is a Stanford MBA and has a strong entrepreneurial bent, has helped raise $5 million from a group of investors who wished the fund the development of a purely scientific "evidence-based' approach to addiction treatment, a model of which Urschel has developed during the time frame. Enterhealth, a Dallas-based treatment startup, has been the result of that effort, with its 12-bed Life Recovery Center opening late last year.

One of the things incorporated into the Enterhealth model, despite what the investors and Urschel suspected might be a strong damp on demand, was that clients must give up smoking before entering treatment. A private pay operation, Life Recovery Center may be hurt more by the no-smoking rule than even investors or Urschel anticipated, if the New York market experience is any guide.

There may be signs that OASIS - considered an enormously intrusive regulator by many a New York provider, most of which complain to some degree or another about the agency - may be reconsidering its treatment center no smoking stance. Instead of making the rule permanent earlier this year after the six months initial comment period, OASAS has instead extended the rule for just another six months, according to Haley.

Newswire Staff

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Addiction Drug Rehab Alcoholism

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