Why People are Dying in Opiate Rehab Facilities

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While many opiate users in need of help attend rehabilitation facilities to try and save their own lives, many people wind up dying instead, a tragic outcome for an already tragic epidemic in this country.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) reported that during 2015, more than 1.4 million people sought treatment from rehabilitation programs to treat alcohol and drug addiction. This care is provided at inpatient, outpatient and residential treatment facilities. SAMSHA reported that 3,362 deaths occurred at those facilities in that year alone.

Each state separately reports death investigations that occur at residential treatment centers. The State of California has had more than 150 residential treatment center deaths investigated by state regulators since 2014. That included 44 deaths during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2018.

Many of these deaths could have been prevented, and for those deaths that should have never occurred, these tragedies were most likely the result of medical malpractice from things such as improperly trained personnel, incompetent personnel, negligent or improper monitoring of residents, or the administration of improper medications.  Many argue that for-profit treatment centers are flooding the addiction treatment market attempting to make money while addressing the needs of desperately sick people.  In turn, these centers provide substandard care while focusing on aggressive marketing techniques. Southern California is a hub for these for-profit treatment centers.

Causes of Death in Inpatient Treatment Centers

There are more people needing addiction treatment than available beds. A SAMSHA report revealed that in 2016 only one of every 10 people who needed treatment for drug addiction or substance abuse actually received proper treatment.

Many experts think the addiction treatment sector is underregulated which causes a major lack of quality standards on a consistent level. Several stories of patients not receiving the correct care or timely care have surfaced in the news.

Failure to address the medical needs of a patient can often be classified as medical malpractice, however, because many of these rehabilitation facilities are not licensed under certain provisions of California’s MICRA law, many of these cases fall outside of the MICRA provisions, which limits recovery for the death of individuals.  Therefore, damages for the deaths of these individuals may become unlimited rather than “capped” at $250,000 by MICRA.  Similar cases of medical malpractice in Los Angeles are occurring in opiate treatment facilities and drug rehab clinics across the country.

More Oversight and Supervision is Needed

Patients in rehab centers who are undergoing withdrawal are particularly at risk for having medical emergencies, depending on the drug or substance they are withdrawing from.  Close oversight and in-depth screening techniques are needed in these circumstances to prevent patient deaths, to prevent incidents of medical malpractice and to improve patient safety, especially as the demand for treatment increases.

The National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers, which represents approximately 850 facilities across the country, has said it has tightened policies for its member facilities. Those facilities must now adhere to an updated code of ethics prohibiting “patient brokering,” which occurs when recruiters are paid to bring in patients who can generate lucrative payments from their insurance companies for services covered by the Affordable Care Act.  Along with this problem is the problem of unscrupulous service providers trying to “sell” services to patients, rather than prescribing medications based on an individual’s specific needs.

Los Angeles Medical Malpractice in Treatment Facilities

When an individual goes into an opiate treatment facility, he or she is owed a high level of care. The withdrawal and detoxification process can be life-threatening and requires careful and vigilant 24-hour monitoring. Many patients are, for example, put in a non-medical program when they should in fact be in a more medical-based treatment center, such as an emergency room.  For this reason, people are unnecessarily dying or having catastrophic outcomes at opiate treatment facilities.  This cannot be allowed to continue without repercussions for these facilities.

If your loved one has been injured or died at a drug treatment facility because of issues with the level of care, call an attorney who handles these cases and all varieties of medical malpractice cases in Los Angeles. Call the Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq. at (310) 289-2600 for a free initial consultation.

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