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Few Beds for Indigent Addicts

July 06, 1986|THOMAS H. MAUGH II

Despite the nation's increasing problem of cocaine abuse and addiction, Southern California has meager public facilities for those who require hospitalization or long-term rehabilitation.

Los Angeles County has only 46 available beds for indigent patients who require hospitalization for drug detoxification. San Diego County has 18 beds. Orange County has none.

The waiting list to get into a publicly supported detoxification facility is six to eight weeks in Los Angeles County, two to three weeks in San Diego County, according to local officials. For long-term care facilities, the waiting list is three months or longer.

"It's almost impossible to find a bed if you can't pay," according to Dolores Dolay, director of the county-funded detoxification unit at Tarzana Psychiatric Hospital.

In a privately owned hospital, detoxification and rehabilitation for cocaine use typically costs between $12,000 and $20,000 for as short a period as six weeks. With the growing cocaine problem, such centers are proliferating throughout the country--serving people who are either independently wealthy or have medical insurance.

According to Quinn Crosbie of Santa Monica Bay Area Drug Abuse, however, some facilities are establishing clinics where patients can come before or after work. Such clinics can cost about $3,000 a month.

"The number of people who have requested services has skyrocketed on us," said William Edelman, deputy assistant director of the Orange County Health Care Agency. "At the same time, for whatever reasons, we have been unsuccessful in convincing people that there is a need for treatment services."

Several bills have come before the California Assembly that would have provided assistance to counties to operate drug abuse facilities, but they have all been defeated. "There is an attitude," says Edelman, "that drug abusers need to be punished rather than helped."

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