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Despite Giuliani's Comments, Clinics In Queens Will Remain – QNS.com

Despite Giuliani’s Comments, Clinics In Queens Will Remain

City hospital officials, in direct contradiction to statements made by Mayor Giuliani, will continue to treat patients in methadone maintenance clinics indefinitely.
Giuliani stirred controversy last week when he announced plans to eliminate methadone maintenance programs for recovering drug addicts in city hospitals.
In two speeches, the Mayor called for a shift to methadone-toward-abstinence plans, which would wean addicts off methadone treatment over a few months’ time. He expected this shift to happen within 60 days.
Now, however, City hospital officials are describing a process far different from the one the Mayor demanded.
Dr. Jane Zimmerman, spokesperson for the City’s Health and Hospitals Corporation, said there is no plan in place to end methadone maintenance in City hospitals.
"We have suspended new admissions into the program," Zimmerman explained, "but patients within the program will continue to be treated."
Pete Velez, the executive director of Elmhurst Hospital, confirmed that Elmhurst’s methadone clinic, the only City run clinic in Queens, will continue to provide methadone to patients indefinitely.
"We are moving to a drug free treatment program," Velez said, but the transition will not be as complete nor quick as the Mayor suggested.
"No patients will be forced off against their will," according to Velez, who sets the average transition period for those willingly becoming drug free at six months, twice Giuliani’s estimates.
"As of today," he explained, "we have not been instructed that we have to close our programs."
Velez outlined a plan where addicts are given the option of continuing methadone treatment or moving into a drug free treatment center run by Elmhurst in collaboration with local rehabilitation groups. He stressed, however, that ending the methadone maintenance clinic in this way would be slow and, perhaps, never complete.
The Mayor’s plan had been questioned as extreme by many drug experts, who see benefits for some patients in indefinite methadone maintenance.
"There is so much research that tells us that methadone treatment is effective," said Ray Diaz of Samaritan Village, a Queens rehabilitation center that has a methadone maintenance clinic. Diaz called the plan "alarming."
He added that this research shows methadone maintenance "can stabilize people and increase productivity," as well as reduce criminality.
According to one study, by the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, these benefits add up to a taxpayer savings of 14 dollars for every one dollar spent on methadone maintenance, primarily through a two-thirds drop in crime by patients.
The report found methadone maintenance to be the most effective treatment, and found that, in the case of crime, "the greater the length of time spent in treatment, the greater the percent reduction in criminal activity."
This and other studies have created support for the method from, among others, White House drug czar Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey.
Despite these findings, Giuliani remained adamant in his stance last week. He called methadone "a chemical that is used to enslave people."

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