February 7, 2009 – A former chief executive of Beth Israel Medical Center says a federal law that blocks Defense Department funding for methadone and other treatment programs is jeopardizing the health of soldiers battling post-traumatic stress disorder or pain-related heroin addictions.
Dr. Robert Newman, now director of Beth Israel’s International Center for Advancement of Addiction Treatment, said drug substitution programs for opiate addictions have become “the gold standard” during their decades of clinical use. Before choosing a rehab center check out the criteria in selecting a rehab center, so that you choose the right one for you.
“There is a potentially deadly, societally hurtful condition we know can be successfully treated but is being denied by the DOD’s health plan,” Newman said.
“Obviously this is a particularly serious exclusion because of the predisposition of veterans to try to self-medicate to deal with PTSD, or for injured soldiers who become dependent during months or years of being appropriately prescribed for opiate painkillers,” Newman said.
A spokeswoman for TRICARE, the Defense Department program that covers private-sector medical treatment for active-duty troops, National Guard personnel, and retired military and dependents, said federal law bars TRICARE from covering methadone and related programs.
“This is something we are prohibited from doing,” spokeswoman Bonnie Powell said.
Newman spoke out in reaction to an article in Thursday’s Newsday that recounted the heroin overdose death of Robert Cafici, 23, a former Marine from Oak Beach. Cafici was being treated for PTSD at a Northport U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center outpatient clinic but had not sought drug treatment, according to his parents, who are suing the VA over his death.
Military and veterans advocates have been increasingly critical of what they say is an inadequate federal response to the health needs of current and former military personnel, whose numbers are rising quickly because of the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Last month, USA Today reported the number of U.S. soldiers seeking help for substance abuse climbed by 25 percent since U.S. forces were sent to Iraq in 2003.