Joycelyn Woods MA-CMA (212) 595-NAMA/6262
April 9, 2007
The Mount Sinai Hospital is planning to close the Narcotic Rehabilitation Center (NRC) a program with an international reputation for excellence in treating opiate addiction. After 37 years of providing rehabilitation services to Upper East Side residents afflicted with opiate addiction, Mount Sinai has determined that there is no longer any room for the program.
Even after accepting funds for the renovation of the facility from the New York State Office of Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) the hospital appears to be moving to quickly close NRC. In NRC’s place Mount Sinai is planning a multi-million dollar project that will include luxury high-rise apartments. It is difficult to comprehend Mount Sinai’s decision to eliminate a program that has been important to the local neighborhood. The situation could be easily averted since NRC can be easily relocated to the selected site that is renovated, licensed and ready to open. Therefore it is difficult to understand why Mt. Sinai can not find a way to keep these valuable services.
Has Mount Sinai Forgotten it’s Mission?
The National Alliance of Methadone Advocates (NAMA) has already begun to hear from fearful patients and their concerns about having to go to another program that they do not know. Certainly, patients will have to travel into other neighborhoods for treatment, change their schedules and develop new relationships with program staff. This creates stress for patients and their families. And now with fewer options to treatment in East Harlem any increases in drug use could easily develop into a public health crisis.
NRC that serves 700 patients has a international reputation for providing quality medicated assisted treatment and is known for having exceptional services. The programs that will have to take on the responsibility of accepting these patients do not have the services that NRC has developed over the years. Programs in Northern Manhattan are already operating close to capacity and certainly do not have room for large numbers of patients creating a carry over effect. If the 7 closest programs accepted 100 patients each the burden on them would be tremendous. Program staff already over worked and stressed will not be able to provide the level of care that they were providing. Therefore a large number of patients from an area with pockets of destitution will not be able to obtain the services that they need to change their lives. In addition to the 700 patients from NRC at least another 3500 patients will be affected by the closing of NRC.
The Harlem area and nearby neighborhoods will be impacted from the effects of the closing of NRC. The improvements that the Harlem area has experienced in the last decade will begin to deteriorate. Individuals seeking help for their opiate dependence will be turned away from local programs, a rarity in New York City. Crime in East Harlem will undoubtedly increase and spill into neighboring communities. The standard of living will be reduced for all as hospitals admissions increase and other public health indicators increase (i.e. HIV, overdose deaths, TB). Therefore the impact of NRC closing on the community and on the city is not insignificant.
NAMA urges Mount Sinai to re-think their decision and to continue with the decision to utilize the site that has been selected and is ready for the program to move into. Proceeding with the current decision to close NRC is an indication that the needs of community are not important in comparison to the new luxury high rise residents. NAMA believes that the patients of NRC and the East Harlem community deserve more from Mount Sinai and will make every effort to insure that the patients of NRC and the community are not forgotten. East Harlem is a vibrant community and the people deserve the right to have access to medicated assisted treatment within their community.