Posted: December 5, 2015 at 9:47 am
by Kayla Kesselman, Ethan Rohrbaugh, and Dakota Hoover
Brianna Stogran, a native of Bridgeport, WV, says she struck bottom when, dressed in orange and shackled in chains, she was led into a courtroom to receive her sentencing for drug charges.
“The thing that hit me the most was having to go to court and have my mother see me like that,” Stogran says.
After a four-month stay in a rehabilitation center in Mill Spring, North Carolina, Stogran returned home to her family. But she soon fell back into the same cycle of behavior that had landed her in that orange jumpsuit in the first place.
“I needed long-term treatment,” says Stogran, who is now 25. “Just getting rid of the drugs out of a drug addict’s system isn’t enough.”
However, securing a bed in a long-term rehab center can be quite challenging for addicts in West Virginia who want to enter recovery.
Currently, there are only 750 drug rehab beds in the state, according to the West Virginia Bureau of Behavioral Health and Health Facilities. Yet nearly 60,000 West Virginia residents were in need of treatment for addiction in 2014, according to the state Health and Human Resources Department. Experts agree that there is an overwhelming need for more long-term rehabilitation services to help people overcome their addictions.
“Law enforcement takes care of the supply side, treatment takes care of the demand side. It’s the demand side of the equation that I think we need to address,” says Shawn Kniceley, Director of Operations at the United Summit Center in Clarksburg, W.Va.
The first step toward combating addiction is detox, but experts say real recovery takes more than the typical seven-day stay in a drug detoxification clinic. To help addicts stay clean, long-term care facilities are essential to the success of those in recovery.
“As you’re going through detox, it might not seem that that’s the easy part, but that’s the easy part,” Kniceley says. “The real tough part is maintaining that sobriety and resisting those urges.”
Many addicts end up in hospital beds while going through detox because of the inpatient monitoring they require. Often, these patients enter the hospital through the emergency room having come close to overdosing on drugs.
Once those patients are safely through detox, they are usually sent home due to the lack of rehab beds available in Morgantown, according to several nurses at WVU’s Ruby Memorial Hospital.
“[Rehab centers] are caught between providing less care per person [in order] to squeeze more people in, or stick to their plan of care and turn people away,” said one nurse at Ruby Memorial Hospital who asked to remain unnamed.
The only long-term rehab facility in Morgantown at Chestnut Ridge has 27 rehab beds, which is not nearly enough to meet the demand. As a result, recovering addicts are put on long waiting lists and sent home, where many of them relapse and start using again.
“[Rehab centers] don’t want to compromise their quality of care and they have limited resources as well, so they end up turning people away or putting them on six-month wait lists,” the nurse said.
In some cases the wait can be much longer. The wait time for treatment at Chestnut Ridge surged to more than a year’s time soon after the wait list began, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail
“It’s not a large amount of beds,” said one Chestnut Ridge employee who asked not to be named. “At the same time, we don’t have a large amount of doctors to provide care for these patients.”
The Chestnut Ridge staffer said that there are only five or six doctors at the clinic overseeing “suboxone treatment.” That works out to about 75 patients per doctor between the center’s short-term and long-term care programs.
Suboxone, a prescription medicine designed to treat opioid dependence, is used by some rehab treatment providers to help addicts cope with the withdrawal stages of recovery.
In Stogran’s case, detox was the only form of care offered to her in West Virginia. So she and her parents started looking for more long-term options.
First, she went to the emergency room at the United Hospital Center, located in Bridgeport, WV.
“They said I couldn’t get help because the only way I could get admitted was if I would say I was suicidal,” Stogran says.
Next she tried the United Summit Center, where she was again denied. That clinic said it couldn’t help her because her private health insurance (through her father) did not cover long-term rehabilitation. Ironically, the clinic said it would have admitted her if she had been on Medicaid or didn’t have any insurance since it had a state grant to treat uninsured addicts.
“If I wouldn’t have had insurance then I would have been right in,” Stogran says. Stogran’s insurance provider, Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield, could not be reached for comment.
Kniceley says both of the Summit Center’s facilities, which includes 32 long-term rehab beds – 16 in Clarksburg and 16 in Terra Alta, West Virginia – are usually at or near capacity. “It’s really kind of first-come, first-serve more than anything else,” he says.
Since Stogran couldn’t find treatment in her home state, her family started looking out of state.
“I was in jail and my parents talked to an addiction doctor,” she says. “He recommended the treatment center in North Carolina.”
However, the North Carolina treatment center was out of her family’s health network, so the insurance company wouldn’t pay for it.
“My parents had to put up their own money themselves and made the choice to send me there,” Stogran says. “I’m lucky to have such a great support system of family and friends.”