Commissioners hear about drug treatment opportunity

By Sarah Hawley -

POMEROY — A program to help fight the drug epidemic has expanded to Meigs County.

One day after Meigs County Common Pleas Court recognized its first person to have completed the Vivitrol program, through Health Recovery Services, representatives from Hopewell Health Centers told the Meigs County Commissioners about the expansion of the agency’s Vivitrol program to its Meigs County location.

Amber Johnson, site manager for the Meigs County location of Hopewell Health Centers, explained that the program is offered at the Meigs location, after being initially launched in Hocking County about four years ago in partnership with the court system and others. Johnson was accompanied at the meeting by several members to the Hopewell team.

According to information on the Hopewell Health Centers website, Hocking County Behavioral Health Clinic (Hopewell), Hocking County Municipal Court and TASC of Southeastern Ohio collaborated on a pilot project centered around medication assisted treatment (MAT) utilizing the drug Vivitrol. Vivitrol, a long acting injectable version of the drug Naltrexone, was selected as a more viable alternative to Suboxone (Buprenorphine), which has been shown to have abuse potential, and is often traded for other street drugs or sold for cash. The project in Hocking County is a court managed and monitored program designed to provide an alternative to traditional criminal case processing.

“The Vivitrol Program is unique and consists of several core features. First of all, it takes place in the context of an already successful drug court that has been certified by the Ohio Supreme Court. While participants in the program are experiencing legal problems, they also have serious mental health needs, lack employment and transportation, are in overall poor health, are often homeless, and lack a recovery or pro-social support network. The project is designed to address all of these needs and provides participants with key wraparound services such as mental health and substance abuse treatment, case management services and healthcare as they progress through the four phase, twelve month program,” says the site of the Hocking County program.

Since launching the program in Hocking County, Hopewell has expanded it to six counties, including Meigs.

Hopewell representatives explained to the commissioners that the program is more than just an injection, and includes services for mental health, physical health and assistance with housing and employment. Vivitrol takes the need to take medication daily off the table as it is a once a month injection rather than a daily pill.

While Vivitrol works for many, it may not work for all individuals. When an individual goes to Hopewell seeking treatment through the program they are given an appointment for care within 48 hours. One of the concerns that must be addressed before beginning the program is whether the individual has been on any type of opioid within the previous five to 10 days, depending on the type of drug. Taking Vivitrol with heroin, opioids or Suboxone in a person’s system can cause withdraw symptoms.

Three individuals began the program about a month ago, with two others starting soon, according to the Hopewell representatives.

Vivitrol is covered by many insurances, and Hopewell also offers a sliding fee scale.

Detox is one of the concerns which was raised by the commissioners as there is limited access to detox facilities in the region.

The commissioners suggested that the Hopewell representatives meet with court officials and the sheriff’s office to discuss the program further and access to treatment options for those in the court system and the jail system.

By Sarah Hawley