It’s an old, old issue, never quite settled. Addiction ... is it wholly a health issue? Or is it sometimes a morals issue? Is a war on drugs sometimes a war on people with physical and/or behavioral health issues?

The dilemma has existed since alcohol was invented, and then other addictive drugs that can alter personality and impair judgment. It’s gone to a whole new level with the sharp uptick in recent years of opioid addiction.

When it comes to punishment vs treatment, what’s the best long-term solution? Seems that solving the problem is the best strategy.

Kudos to Adventist Health/Rideout personnel for making the most of a hospital emergency room program started to help patients deal with opioid addiction.

Since May, according to an article in the Tuesday edition, the Public Health Institute’s California Bridge Program has helped the hospital assist more than 300 patients receive treatment of some sort for “opioid use disorder.”

The program “bridges” the gap between an immediate medical care issue (withdrawal symptoms, for instance) and continued treatment for addiction. Instead of simplistic and reactive procedures, hospital staff takes proactive steps and helps patients sign up for additional outpatient care -- the emergency room visit nets the patient medication to counter the terrible withdrawal symptoms and then a counselor visits with the patient and gets him/her signed up for additional treatment ... and checks back on them to make sure they make it to appointments.

Adventist/Rideout is one of 52 hospitals in the state participating in the program, which provides support, training and technical assistance.

It seems simple enough, but nothing is simple in an emergency department or with opioid addiction treatment. It might very well be that just that little extra attention turns lives around. And Todd O’Berg, who works with the program, noted that it doesn’t just help the primary patient, but has a ripple effect -- they affect the lives of patients, families, friends, co-workers...

And it was made clear that people can go to the emergency room for help without fear of legal repercussions. Patient information is confidential. 

That’s fine. With addiction disorders, we should concentrate mainly on healing, rather than punishment.

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