staying powerCEO LETTER

In Our Backyard

Salanger Matt web

More people than ever before now realize that addiction impacts individuals from all walks of life. One of the greatest challenges facing our region today is opioid addiction. It is in all of our neighborhoods and taking a horrible toll on human life. In Broome County alone, 76 deaths in 2016 were attributed to drug overdoses, with 90 percent of those linked to heroin or opioids. Already in 2017, 50 people have died from overdoses, according to the District Attorney’s Office. 

This is a crisis that is growing in the number of people impacted, but it’s not new. It’s something we at UHS have been working to combat for decades. 

Starting in the 1970s, we introduced a number of community “firsts” in this area, including medically managed detoxification, inpatient rehabilitation and intensive outpatient care. Moreover, we became the first healthcare provider in the area to have certified addiction medicine physicians on staff, and we’re a founding partner in Broome County’s drug treatment court program. We have always taken a comprehensive approach to diagnosing and treating substance use, providing the best possible access to care for patients and reaching out with real help to those battling addiction.

In spite of overwhelming odds, we have made a difference. Over the years, thousands of Southern Tier residents have gotten a fighting chance for recovery by going through our highly respected program.

However, the problem of addiction will never be fully addressed until our entire community acknowledges that it isn’t something that happens “out there,” but exists right here in our neighborhood, in our own backyard. 

Several years ago, UHS was turned away by two communities as we sought to expand chemical dependency treatment facilities, because the vocal minority stated that they didn’t want “those types of people” in their neighborhoods. Persons with substance use issues were stigmatized, despite healthcare experts noting that addiction knows no class boundaries.

I believe that, in the intervening years, we’ve grown as a community and have moved away from the “not-in-my-backyard” mindset, also referred to as “NIMBY.” Our community today is more attuned to how widespread this issue has become and the importance of making greater inroads into preventing and treating addiction. We’ve learned that addiction knows no class boundaries. That’s why we continue to expand our treatment program at UHS in the innovative ways described in this issue of UHS Stay Healthy. 

My hope is that all Southern Tier residents will join with me and the UHS team in recognizing that those with substance use issues shouldn’t be labeled as bad people. Instead, we should recognize them as our fellow citizens and neighbors, individuals who need compassion, understanding, care and support—right now, right here, in our backyard.  

 

Matthew J. Salanger, FACHE
President and CEO of UHS