Jonathan Westfall, program director of Find Your Path, and volunteer Kara Izzo collect used needles. Monroe County on Aug. 31 announced a @1 million state grant for 15 more detox beds. The beds will be operated by Helio Health on University Avenue.  (Photo: Patti Singer/staff photographer @PattiSingerRoc)

August 31

State to provide $1M for detox beds in Monroe County

Patti Singer, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle Published 1:27 pm E% Aug. 31, 2018

A $1 million state grant will mean 15 more detox beds in Monroe County, hopefully by the end of this year.  

The money will be used as part of an existing contract with Helio Health to expand short-term inpatient detox at 1350 University Ave.

Helio Health, formerly Syracuse Behavioral Health, will be renovating space adjacent to its current facility. The work is expected to be done by December, according to David Putney, director of Community Services for Monroe County. The department covers mental health, substance use and developmental disabilities.

The money from the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services was announced Friday by County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo. Of the grant, $564,374 is for start-up costs for Helio Health's medically supervised withdrawal inpatient services. An additional $450,000 will fund operational costs. 

Helio Health already operates 25 beds, but families affected by opioid addiction have clamored in recent months for more beds. A message left for the president and chief executive officer of Helio Health, which is based in Syracuse, was not immediately returned.

In the past month, Gates to Recovery has said it would refer people unable to find a local bed to a facility in Pennsylvania, and Gates officials also toured a city building that was formerly home to a detox center.

A phone call led Gates officials to tour a building that used to be a detox center, with the hope it can once again help people recover from drugs. Patti Singer, @PattiSingerRoc

Putney said the grant for the beds at Helio Health has been in the works for some time, has been following a process and was not a response to community advocates.

“The community is eager as we are to have more access to beds close to home or at home,” Putney said. “This is not an outgrowth to what Gates to Recovery has been doing. We honor and respect what they are doing with engaging the community, finding services and establishing a path to recovery. … These (beds) had been in the works based on what we as a provider system as well as the county administration has observed for many months is that we don’t have enough beds close to home.”

The beds are for short-term stabilization and not for in-patient rehabilitation. Still, an individual’s length of stay would depend on their need, Putney said. Detox also can be done on an out-patient basis. Once a person is stabilized, they can be referred to other services.

In March, the general counsel for OASAS said the agency was having discussions with Helio about increasing its number of beds. That same month, the agency loosened a regulation governing hospital detox beds. UR Medicine and Rochester Regional Health offer in-patient detox to people admitted for other medical needs, according to recent statements from each system.

Through July, 103 people in Monroe County died this year from a suspected opioid overdose, according to unofficial data collected by law enforcement data. In July, 18 people died from a suspected overdose. The Office of the Monroe County Medical Examiner compiles official statistics, but that data can take months to be released. According to the medical examiner, 220 people died of an overdose in 2017.

The $1 million for the detox beds comes a few days after the county announced it was getting $2.4 million on opioid and mental health services.  The money will be used to expand the Rochester Drug Court, to do outreach to expand connections to long-term treatment and recovery options, and to start a new mental health jail diversion drop-off center.

PSINGER@Gannett.com