The U.S. doesn’t have enough hospital beds to treat everyone who could become sick as a result of the coronavirus, according to projections from researchers at Harvard University.
Depending on how bad the crisis gets, that could put the country in the position of having to ration hospital beds. But the Recovery Centers of America (RCA) has a plan to help, at least in the four states where the addiction treatment provider does business.
“We have offered a pick-up arrangement where we can go into all these hospitals, take the patients suffering from addiction and bring them to our hospital, where we can treat addiction and free up [acute] hospital beds,” CEO Brian O’Neill told Behavioral Health Business.
King of Prussia, Pennsylvania-based RCA, which has financial backing from Deerfield Management Company, operates seven inpatient facilities and 10 outpatient facilities across Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Massachusetts. The company reached out to the governors of those states Wednesday to suggest the agreement.
“So far the response is unanimous: ‘We can take all the help we can get,’” O’Neill said. “Nothing’s a done deal till you get it documented, but we had our lobbyists go to the top of the food chain in every case, and everyone’s coming back to us and saying, ‘We want the help.’”
In 2016 alone, the U.S. saw close to 580,000 emergency room visits related to non-fatal drug incidents, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data published in 2019.
And as COVID-19 worsens, those numbers will rise, O’Neill said, calling social isolation “a breeding ground for addiction and alcoholism.”
“Those patients are having acute events — overdoses, alcohol poisoning and alcohol withdrawal — and going to the hospital, which is clogging up emergency rooms and consuming hospital beds that are needed to treat COVID-19,” O’Neill said.
Unlike many businesses across the country, behavioral health providers are not restricted from operating in light of COVID-19 because they provide essential services.
As such, amid the crisis, RCA is keeping all of its facilities open, while implementing new screening, cleaning and practice protocols at its facilities. RCA is delivering telehealth options when possible, a strategy that’s been most useful for outpatient facilities, where its no-show rates have increased amid COVID-19 concerns. The company has also paused group support meetings and is providing online resources in their place.
While RCA’s census is currently steady, O’Neill expects to see an uptick soon, as states across the country just started closing restaurants, gyms and businesses a few days ago.
“We’re talking to law enforcement and hospital emergency rooms and others, and they’re seeing the increase,” he said. “They’re generally the leading indicator, and then we follow shortly thereafter.”
In addition to the pick-up program, RCA — or, rather, its sister company, Genetworx, which does genetic testing — has also offered to help state governments test for COVID-19. Nationwide, there’s been a shortage of tests.
“[Genetworx] is now geared up to test 1,000 patients a day,” O’Neill said. “We’re moving to where we can test 4,000 patients a day, or 120,000 patients a month.”
O’Neill said the tests can be turned around in 24 hours and will be administered on a first-come, first-serve basis.
“We’ve gone out to the governor’s in all the states where we do business, and we’re offering to provide testing services for hospitals and other medical establishments to help them work through their backlog in testing, as well as the testing we do for our own facilities,” O’Neill said.