WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Overdose deaths in Jefferson County have already matched the county’s 2016 all-time high - and the year isn’t even over yet. So what can be done to help? While a dedicated detox center may be out of the question, Samaritan Medical Center is working on another option.
Tim Ruetten knows Jefferson County’s overdose issue all too well.
He’s the director of Community Services for Jefferson County and helps people with mental health issues, like addiction, get the help they need.
This year Ruetten has been busy.
“2020 we have seen now 23 deaths due to overdose, which it ties for the most ever for a year, which was 2016,” he said.
But despite this, Ruetten says these numbers don’t justify opening a detox center.
“The numbers simply don’t support the expense of one. First of all, we would need to do that within a hospital, which is very expensive and difficult. But we need to make sure those beds are filled. If they’re not, it’s a tremendous strain on resources,” he said.
The solution? Samaritan Medical Center will be using five available hospital beds scattered throughout medical and surgical floors.
“This is not a dedicated unit or a dedicated center, but there are regulations in place that allow us to have these scattered detox beds. We use our existing staff when space is available to actually help those people detox themselves,” said Leslie DiStefano, Samaritan spokeswoman.
DiStefano says the five scattered detox beds would help patients detox before being sent to the right level of care, whether it be an inpatient rehab unit or outpatient center.
“This is just a next step for us that is complementary to what we offer, and it’s using the existing hopsital beds we have to help those patients,” she said.
DiStefano says the detox beds will be available in the next three months.