BY SAM RAPPAPORT
As opioid abuse reaches new heights across the nation, one rehabilitation center in Jamaica is working to offer patients a comprehensive approach to recovery.
J-CAP, located at 116-30 Sutphin Blvd.—a therapeutic community for people recovering from drug abuse—has existed for more than five decades. Dr. Robert Aquino, the facility’s medical staff coordinator, said that the breadth of opioid abuse in recent years has saddled the organization with new pressures.
“It’s very important to realize that in this day and age, there is nobody that this hasn’t touched,” said Aquino. “This is not 10 percent of the population. This is all of the population. This has touched society in whole.”
There are 200 patients enrolled at J-CAP, which is a 14-month residential program, at any given time, and there is never an open bed, Aquino explained.
“The backlog of beds is tremendous,” he said.
Fifty percent of the facility’s patients are mandated, meaning that they were given the option of jail time or a J-CAP residency.
There are three phases to JCAP’s drug rehabilitation program. The first phase—orientation—Aquino described as “paramilitary.” Patients are not allowed cell phones, family visits or facial hair. This phase sees the patients through the duration of their withdrawal periods. The second phase—main treatment—is a six to eight-month period during which patients enroll in part-time jobs, participate in group counseling and are allowed short visits with the outside world. The third phase—re-entry—lasts anywhere from one to six months, during which patients are in school or working full-time.
The entire process, Aquino said, is meant to address the many facets of drug addiction.
“The theory is that we keep you off drugs, we slowly re-introduce you into society, we address what causes you to use drugs and we help you to understand and deal with the urge to do drugs,” Aquino said.
Still, despite this comprehensive approach, most patients who complete treatment at the facility end up relapsing, Aquino said. He noted that among the mandated patients, recidivism runs at approximately 80 percent.
“It’s not rocket science,” Aquino said of the difficulty of sustaining sobriety. “They go back to their old friends and their old communities, and there aren’t enough outpatient programs.”
J-CAP receives its funding through commercial insurance, Medicaid and philanthropy. But the philanthropic contributions are few and far between.
“The cost of running these programs is astronomical,” Aquino said, adding that J-CAP provides patients with housing, food and medical attention from physicians and psychiatrists. “The budgets for these programs are ridiculously low. It’s amazing how we make it every month.”
Aquino said that there is a faint silver lining regarding the enormity of opioid abuse.
“As this gets more and more out of hand, it will get more attention,” he said. “With drugs being so cheap and new drugs continuing to come out, comprehensive therapeutic communities are so critical right now.”