Sacramento County's detox needs are growing

Substance abuse linked to child neglect and higher HIV rates

A report on drug and alcohol services in Sacramento County laid bare an overburdened system fighting to meet an ever-increasing demand for substance abuse help.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, which presented its report to the board of supervisors last month, 83 percent of the men booked into county jail between 2013 and 2014 were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Additionally, an average of one person was arrested every two hours in 2013 for driving under the influence, while 60 to 80 percent of all substantiated child abuse and neglect allegations involved substance abuse by one or both parents that year.

The county also experienced an increase in HIV cases, which the report attributes to increasing intravenous heroin and methamphetamine use.

It's against this backdrop that the report calls for quicker change. For instance, the county has the 10th highest rate of opioid poisoning deaths in the state. Despite prescription drug abuse being declared an epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2011, Sacramento hasn't created a task force to address the problem, which is one of the recommendations of the DHHS report.

The county has developed a continuum of care with inter-agency collaboration and multiple points of entry for the substance abuse population, but a rising need has formed a bottleneck. The report cited a 36-percent rise in demand for detox and residential facilities, which has created longer lists and wait-times.

Medi-Cal currently doesn’t cover detox or residential treatment, but California is expected to address that through a waiver program available to counties. Opting into the program would mean more administrative work for the county, as it would have to ensure local facilities meet certain requirements set by the state. But the alternative is unsustainable, says the report: “The service capacity is not currently able to meet the community need.”