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Problem gamblers being welcomed at state addiction treatment centers

Albany is apparently seeing a growing problem with gambling addiction and is allowing the state's public addiction treatment centers to provide more beds for problem gamblers.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has changed some rules and added six treatment centers around the state to those able to treat problem gamblers, including the Stutzman Addiction Treatment Center on the grounds of the Buffalo Psychiatric Center.

Leaders at the State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse say there are no good numbers on how many state residents have a gambling problem, but admitted 229 to outpatient care last year in treatment centers.

General Counsel Rob Kent says treatment for gambling addiction is roughly similar to dealing with drug or alcohol addiction.

"If you look at the research, you would see that people who have addictions that can manifest itself in some instances, problem gambling with abuse of substances," says Kent. "The whole concept of the therapies, etc. are very similar."

Kent says treatment centers like Stutzman, which has 33 beds, are part of the state's safety net. Patients are admitted when beds are available whether they can pay or not. Also, an urban setting like the Psych Center grounds allows supportive family members to easily visit and help the patient.

"Heretofore, it has been very limited geographically on where we were able to provide the service," says Kent. "The real goal here is to make it available in more locations so that is is logistically easier for people to access that level of care if they really need that level of care."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.