By Christine Vestal
BALTIMORE — Anthony Green says he woke up one morning in January and decided to quit drinking. “I said to myself, ‘If I want something better, I’ve got to do better.’ ” That’s what landed him at Gaudenzia, a residential drug and alcohol treatment center here in North Baltimore.
Green, 38, went through alcohol withdrawal on his own and two weeks later walked into Gaudenzia’s recently constructed one-story gray and white clapboard building. He was admitted the same day and the city agreed to pay his bill through a limited grant for city residents.
“Anthony was extraordinarily lucky,” said Greg Warren, regional manager of Gaudenzia’s treatment centers in Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C. “Walking in and getting admitted the same day almost never happens.
“That motivational moment Anthony had is fleeting,” Warren said. “If you don’t capture that moment, people will disappear.”
But in the throes of an opioid epidemic that killed more than 33,000 people in 2015 alone, the nation’s supply of residential treatment slots falls far short of the number needed to serve everyone who walks in, gets dropped off by police, or is transferred from a hospital or crisis center. Waitlists persist almost everywhere, primarily because of a growing number of people addicted to heroin and prescription painkillers.
To boost the number of beds available for low-income residents, the federal government has granted California, Maryland, Massachusetts and New York a waiver of an obscure Medicaid rule that prohibits the use of federal dollars for addiction treatment provided in facilities with more than 16 beds. Seven other states — Arizona, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Utah and Virginia — are seeking similar permission.