Citing Lack of Resources, Nursing Homes Fail to Treat Opioid Addiction

A recent report by StatNews shows that many nursing homes across the country are refusing to admit elderly Americans with opioid addictions, and failing to effectively treat those with addiction already placed in their care. According to the newspaper, elderly Americans who have been prescribed methadone or buprenorphine, medications commonly used to treat opioid addiction, face the “next to impossible” task of being admitted to a nursing home. According to experts cited by the newspaper, many facilities fail to admit these patients because “of stigma, gaps in staff training and a widespread misconception that abstinence is superior to medications for treating addiction.”

Nursing homes appear unaware that denying admission because of an opioid addiction violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. According to a nurse at Boston Medical Center, only two nursing homes in Boston accept patients taking medication for an opioid addiction. According to the Department of Justice, the government is planning to increase enforcement of facilities that discriminate against individuals taking prescription medication for opioid addiction. Currently, the government agency is looking at detention centers and prisons to ensure compliance. However, the Department of Justice has promised to extend the enforcement push to nursing homes within the year.

A lack of enforcement and confusion over the law are only part of the explanation, according to the news report. The medication used for opioid addiction typically requires a doctor or physician to take a certain number of classes and become certified by the state before they are able to prescribe and dispense the medications. For many overstretched nursing homes, these onerous regulations serve as another barrier to serving residents with opioid addiction.

Consequently, for many elderly Americans who become addicted to opioids while at a nursing home center, their medical options are severely limited. An undertrained staff may fail to recognize the signs of addiction and a doctor may unwittingly exacerbate the problem. Furthermore, when an addiction or drug problem does become apparent, the patient will face limited healthcare options. For many nursing homes, physical withdrawal from the drugs or acceptance of the opioid addiction, which violates CMS laws on ensuring the highest quality of well-being for patients, may be the only options.

Gallivan & Gallivan is a New York based law firm dedicated to protecting the rights of the elderly.

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