Dec. 28, 2020 – With the pandemic monopolizing government time, energy and resources, treatment programs with limited support are left to feel around in the dark. “We need more real-time data like they do for COVID patients,” says Sherry Daley, communications director for CCAPP. “We don’t know how many people need help with addiction and died from addiction. There just isn’t a plan right now to expand services or see where the need for services is growing or not growing … why isn’t the same level of attention focused on these deaths that we know are coming?”
The challenge for treatment programs can be broken down into four parts: lack of workforce, limited capacity, timing conflicts and insurance issues. In California, many workers at these programs are not licensed. This means they’re considered paraprofessionals. The lowest paid among them collect food stamps, and amid the pandemic, they’ve been required to go to work even though they’re struggling to pay for child care, Daley says.
For a short time, the state government allowed them to get free child care, but that option expired June 30. In August, the state’s Department of Health Care Services announced that programs can increase pay for staff as long as total costs don’t exceed 150 percent of usual costs, Daley says. This adjustment (which will last until the governor or both houses of the Legislature must declare the pandemic has ended), might help offset child care costs and encourage workers to stay in their positions, according to Daley.
Another issue is capacity. Half of California’s treatment systems have six-bed facilities, she says. In larger programs, owners can isolate a person with COVID-19, but six-bed facilities have no spare rooms, which makes owners reluctant to admit new clients with unknown infection status. Many close to new admissions when even one client tests positive, Daley says. There are two ways CCAPP hopes to address this.