The use of heroin and other opiate drugs is on the rise across the country. While the problem isn’t nearly as severe in Pettis County as other parts of Missouri, Pathways Community Health is working to be proactive to make sure it stays that way.
Pathways recently relocated to a new facility at 1700 West Main Street in Sedalia, and soon it will include a methadone clinic to help those addicted to opiates. The upcoming clinic will be housed inside the new facility, unlike most methadone clinics that operate separately.
“We’re co-locating the methadone clinic with the regular treatment facility in kind of a different model; in some places you just have strictly methadone clinics and that’s what they do and that’s all they do,” said Sylvan “Lucky” Ward, Director of Addiction Recovery Services at Pathways. “Our model is different in meaning that we look at it as far as a continuum of care, meaning (the clinic is) just an adjunct kind of tool. When we look at people with substance abuse issues we want to make sure we have the full range of services we can offer, so it’s just an addition to that.”
Methadone is a synthetic substance used to help in the treatment of opiate addiction and can reduce withdrawal symptoms. Ward noted that Pathways chose to include the methadone clinic inside its facility because it is important to address all aspects of addiction — social, psychological and biological.
“Those dealing with an opiate addiction, opiates being heroin, Oxycontin, whatever form it takes, you end up with a physiological process that’s taking place,” he said. “That process creates the cravings and the drive and continuation for use. We deal with the psychological aspects in treatment — we do counseling and those kinds of things. We address those issues, however, we’ve never addressed the physiological part.
“That’s where the methadone comes in. It is a process in a continuum of care, meaning there’s a range of medications you can use for certain addictions, especially opiate addictions … methadone is in a range for those having the most difficulty in controlling themselves or managing that drive, that assists them in avoiding abuse. It’s scientifically proven.
“… Treatment alone has a certain effect, medication alone has a certain effect. The two combined is where we actually have the most success.”
There is no timeline for the clinic yet, as Pathways is still looking for a physician. Once someone is hired, the process to open the clinic can move forward. Right now staff is working to submit the correct paperwork and to meet state and federal guidelines. Ward said hiring a physician is key to opening the clinic because this form of treatment is more medically-driven than others, such as counseling.
“Methadone isn’t for everybody that’s on opiates. It’s designed specifically for those who meet the specifications — there’s a whole criteria and that’s where the physicians come in. It’s medically-driven,” he explained. “The physician will do the evaluation and decide if they are a candidate for methadone or some other medication.”
Having a local methadone clinic is also known to help the surrounding community, Ward said. Addressing the opiate problem can create a reduction in crime and an increase in stability in employment and housing for those involved.
“Whenever you deal with an opiate program like this, it’s very monitored, very structured,” Ward said. “There’s certain guidelines and expectations for a program like that. What that means is, an individual comes in, they enter at a certain level, there’s an expectation that within a certain amount of time that they have a stable form of employment.
“… It’s more than just, we’re going to treat you, again, wrapping the counseling part of it around, wrapping the employment piece, the housing piece, the community piece and assisting these individuals in becoming productive citizens.”
Ward said Pathways’ staff decided to open a methadone clinic in Sedalia for a number of reasons, one being the geographic need. Currently people must travel to Springfield, Columbia or Kansas City to receive this type of treatment, or they may forgo the treatment altogether due to lack of transportation.
Another reason was the increase in opiate use across the country and Missouri. Ward said heroin use began in Missouri in St. Louis and has made its way toward Jefferson City and Springfield. Ward said there is some heroin use in the area, but not to the degree other areas are experiencing. Ward said Pettis County is “on the edge.”
“There are problems in our community and we’re seeing an increase. Part of (creating the clinic) is in response to that,” Ward said. “We try to respond to whatever’s going on in the community and it’s definitely on the increase. We’re trying to respond proactively, although it does exist now, there are people in the community who are opiate-dependent and looking for some type of treatment we can offer for them.”
Ward also noted that while people may like to ignore when a community has a drug problem, “it’s going to create problems in the community if we don’t address it.” Pettis County Sheriff Kevin Bond agreed with Ward.
“As I visit with other sheriffs and law enforcement officials across the state, many other locations are having a higher incidence rate (with heroin),” Bond said. “Law enforcement is put under more pressure with heroin addiction than what we are seeing in Pettis County.
“Up to this point we’ve not seen a lot of it from an abuse standpoint,” he added. “We have seen it a little bit as far as in stopping vehicles moving through the community, coming into the county and going back out and that type of thing, but we’re not yet seeing large numbers of heroin overdoses either in the hospital or in the field that deputies are responding to, and I certainly hope it remains that way.”
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1482 or @NicoleRCooke.