Summit community conversation of addressing drugs

Three times last month, Dr. Ben Watters treated a 19-year-old man struggling with an addiction to methamphetamine.

In the second and third visits, he came into Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital’s emergency room complaining of a dysphoric reaction. “He was freaking out,” Watters said. “In his words ‘seeing ghosts’ and experiencing hallucinations.”

In both of those cases, the man required admission to the hospital. Both times, he also refused the chemical dependency help offered to him.

Last Friday, Watters told a crowd of nearly 70 community members at the first-ever Ravalli County Summit on opioids, meth, alcohol and other drugs of abuse that an opportunity had been missed due to a system that’s already stretched to its limits.

On the man’s first visit to the Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital emergency room, his father came with him seeking help.

“His father implored me during that first visit to try to secure a direct admission to a chemical dependency program so that he would not go back home and regress,” Watters said. “The patient was willing. He was voluntary at that point.”

It only took a few phone calls for Watters to learn that wasn’t a possibility.

“I was told that’s not the way it’s done,” he said. “We don’t have the resources. He will need to go home. He will need to undergo an outpatient chemical dependency outtake. He’ll need to call the program in Missoula to see what bed space availability there is.”

And so the man went home and back to the same friends and the same drugs.

No easy answers came from the day-long summit hosted by Hamilton’s Sapphire Community Health at the Bitterroot College.