Houston Works to Treat Wave of Evacuee Addicts

Kristin Finan, Houston Chronicle, Sept. 14

When Dr. Avrim Fishkind received an early-morning call to help turn a slab of concrete in the Reliant Astrodome into a medical clinic, he knew part of that task would be assisting substance abusers experiencing withdrawals from days without drugs or alcohol.

Since thousands of Hurricane Katrina victims began arriving at the clinic two weeks ago, Fishkind estimates 30 percent to 50 percent have needed substance-abuse treatment.

But as those working with patients at Reliant Park, the George R. Brown Convention Center, and local hospitals and clinics respond to the sudden influx of people with medical and mental health needs, one question is evident: Can Houston’s substance-abuse treatment community handle the potential long-term workload?

“The thing that’s really an open question now is how many folks will go back to Louisiana and how many will stay here,” said Dr. Dave Wanser, deputy commissioner of behavioral and community health at the Texas Department of State Health Services. “There’s really no way to know that, so what we’re attempting to do in putting a response in place is to use existing infrastructure but bring more resources.”

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