Methadone clinic scheduled to open

Published 1:16 pm Saturday, February 4, 2017

Affinity Healthcare Group Program Director Ashley Dais confirmed on Friday that an outpatient drug addiction treatment center is being established at 1333 Carrsville Highway, the site of the former Airway Shopping Center. She expects that the current renovations of an existing building will be completed in time for an opening this spring.

The facility is intended to help clients wanting to end their dependency on opioids, such as heroin or  the painkiller Oxycodone.

In addition to counseling, one course of treatment is providing methadone, another opioid, which counteracts the effects of the addictive substance. Methadone is provided daily in liquid form. The other is buprenorophine maintenance, which is taken under the tongue.

“The long-term goal is to wean them [the clients] off addictive heroin and pain medications; [it also] eliminates withdrawals and cravings,” said Dais, who’s based in the Newport News center; Carla Taylor is scheduled to be the program director at the new site.

Dais added that treatment is self-paced. Clients come for an assessment and to see if they meet criteria of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5 Edition.

When the clinic opens it will first be on a self-pay basis, but insurance will later be accepted, she said.

This region is considered a “high-risk area of opioid use,” Dais said to explain why the facility is coming here.

“The opioid epidemic is nationwide,” said Capt. Tim Whitt, spokesman for the Franklin Police Department. “Franklin is certainly not immune. Heroin has made a large scale come back in Franklin and there is wide spread abuse of prescription opioids as well, both of which create an uptick in crimes committed other than the illegal use of the opioids themselves.”

He cited the federal operation in 2015 to dismantle a heroin trafficking operation that was done by a local Bloods gang, which moved significant quantities of heroin from New York to Franklin and Southampton.

“There was a local demand large enough to warrant the distribution of large quantities of heroin in the area,” said Whitt. “And although it dismantled that particular operation, there are others to keep the supply coming. Where crack cocaine used to be the drug of choice, it appears that heroin has taken over that role. Last year we responded to four heroin overdoses, one of which resulted in death.”

Ronald Martin, president of Affinity Healthcare Group, also said the reason for new clinic’s location is based on demand.

“We finding a lot of clients are coming from Southampton County and Emporia to get treatment,” said the former Hertford County, North Carolina deputy. “They’re running on fumes. These folks are hurting. We’re getting so many requests.”

He figured that 35 percent of the clients have been coming from Western Tidewater and Emporia.

Martin said the first clinic was established in Chesapeake in 2011 and worked exclusively with the court system, and then expanded to Virginia Beach. He sold that to Behavioral Healthcare Group in spring of 2016; the Newport News location of Affinity also opened last year.

Addiction to heroin and painkillers is what he called a “man-made epidemic,” and it’s not one that discriminates. Martin said he’s even seen police officers who have developed an addiction to painkillers because of chronic pain resulting from car or motorcycle accidents.

He said there are two courses of action for people who have been legitimately taking painkillers such as Vicodin for years but then told by their doctors, “No more.”

“They can seek help or go to the street to supplement [their need],” said Martin. “We’re here to bridge the gap … fill the void.”

He went on to describe the medication treatment as “a placeholder,” which enables the staff to help clients find the “root cause of their addiction” in order to provide treatment.

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