A proposal to shut down a 15-bed drug and alcohol detox unit in Jamaica Plain has mobilized a state nursing organization and will be the subject of a public hearing on Friday.
Member of the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), a chapter of National Nurses United, say the proposal by Brigham & Women’s Faulkner Hospital to shut down the drug treatment unit comes at a time when addictions in the Boston area are increasing and there is already a critical shortage of facilities that offer this type of service.
The hearing is set for 2 p.m. at Massachusetts Department of Public Health Council Room, 250 Washington St. and is expected to draw a number of community groups, addictions/recovery advocates, physicians and elected officials. Previously, Kitty Dukakis, the wife of ex-governor Michael Dukakis who has disclosed her own addictions, also voiced opposition to the proposal in an interview with the Boston Globe.
In a statement on their website, the MNA said closing the facility will affect more than 1,000 patients who seek alcohol and drug treatment at the unit each year.
“There is a serious shortage of these types of addiction treatment beds and services in Massachusetts,” the association said. “The closing of this unit will result in more of these patients crowding our emergency departments, in patients being placed on hospital floors where they will not receive the same level of care, or worst of all, in patients left untreated.”
They added that Partners HealthCare, which operates the program, had profits of more than $352 million this past year “and can well afford to maintain this important service.”
In the Boston Globe article, a Faulkner official said that they are not actually shutting down the unit but “transforming” it. He stated that five of the 15 beds will be absorbed into the hospital’s regular medical unit and other patients will be treated on an outpatient
The facility is slated to close in mid April.
The MNA said the facility is one of only two acute care hospitals with that particular level of treatment in the city. They cited a report by the Massachusetts Health Council that found that Eastern Massachusetts had the highest rate of emergency room treatment for illicit drug use that any other metropolitan area in the U.S.
In addition, the alcohol and detox unit at Brigham & Women’s Faulkner, the MNA said, treats patients with medical mental complications that can’t be address by merely bringing them into the general hospital treatment area or treated on an outpatient basis. The result of the closing of the unit will also result in overcrowded emergency units or addiction sufferers not receiving treatment at all.