Addiction counselors in New York on emergency plans

There are some New York addiction treatment programs that may not be properly prepared to prevent gaps in care in an emergency, according to an audit released Thursday by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

The audit, which covered a period between 2019 and 2022, found that the state Office of Addiction Services and Support needs to improve its guidelines for contingency plans for residential or inpatient substance use disorder programs.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant disruptions to addiction treatment and services, leaving many vulnerable New Yorkers vulnerable to relapse,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “The state's Office of Addiction Services and Supports should work to improve its oversight of its providers' programs to ensure that gaps in potentially lifesaving care do not occur during emergencies and crisis situations.”

According to the audit, in the wake of the pandemic, only 14 of the 27 contingency plans reviewed included procedures to address infection control. The audit also found that OASAS did not review providers' plans after a program's initial certification, meaning providers had to update them themselves.

According to a report DiNapoli published a year ago, opioid deaths increased 44% in 2020 compared to the previous year, and the number of hospitalized patients decreased 33%. It is believed that fewer people received care due to the possibility of contracting COVID-19, limited visitor access to treatment facilities, the closure of courts and adjusted enrollments to accommodate social distancing.

The audit also found that OASAS has not attempted to improve the accuracy of waitlist data for certified substance abuse programs, leading to an imperfect picture of whether patients in need of care are receiving services.

In response to the audit, OASAS said it will direct all providers to incorporate any newly issued guidance and recommendations into their operations and contingency plans, but maintained that the guidance for providers during the pandemic was clear.

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