The Frederick police chief and several other public officials applauded the newest avenue for people struggling with substance abuse to get help during the opening of a substance abuse treatment clinic in the city Thursday.
The Ideal Option clinic, a medication-assisted treatment clinic, celebrated its opening at 201 Thomas Johnson Drive, joined by city police Chief Ed Hargis, Mayor Michael O’Connor, Alderman Ben MacShane and Jason Barth, of the Frederick Health’s Behavioral Health Services, among several others.
Ideal Option already has clinics established in eight states, including one in Hagerstown. The clinic tailors its approach to substance abuse, particularly those struggling with opioid abuse, around medications like Vivitrol and prescriptions for buprenorphine that can help people wean themselves off illicit opioids such as heroin, as well as prescription opioids like oxycodone.
While the use of such medications is not new to the treatment of substance abuse, Lane Savitch, Ideal Option’s vice president, said that the clinic’s approach offers a unique, patient-centered approach to substance abuse treatment that he feels helps people stay in treatment and eventually reach recovery through the clinic’s “low-barrier” approach.
“And really what that means is we’re able to get more people into treatment and to retain them in treatment,” Savitch said, explaining that the clinic will not turn away anyone who comes to them without insurance or the ability to pay, but rather offer treatment while also helping those patients sign up for Medicaid.
The clinic also recognizes that recovery is what CEO Tim Kilgallon referred to as “a longitudinal process” in which relapses aren’t punished with immediate expulsion from the program, as some other models practice. Instead, patients are tested frequently to facilitate an objective discussion about the patient’s progress and up-to-date treatment plans throughout the recovery process.
Several patients from the company’s Hagerstown clinic spoke at the event, including Hagerstown resident Joe Stotelmyer, who has been clean for about three years and credited Ideal Option’s approach with saving his life.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that I would be dead without a program like this,” Stotelmyer told the small gathering.
MacShane praised the opening of the clinic and spoke about his own successful recovery from alcohol abuse. While MacShane struggled with alcohol and drug abuse in the past, he said he has been proudly sober for the majority of his adult life, drawing applause from those in attendance.
“I’m really pleased that this clinic is opening here, because I so thoroughly understand how robust and collaborative a response we need to this crisis, and medically-assisted treatment is just one aspect of that,” MacShane said. “I’m really happy about some of the things that have been talked about already that we’re working on in this community, in drug courts, mental health courts, peer support services, rapid response services, crisis intervention programs. These are all fantastic, but it’s not enough, yet.”
In line with MacShane’s remarks, Hargis talked about the need for additional programs to help combat the opioid epidemic. From January to Sept. 2, 35 people in the county have died from opioid-related overdoses, according to recent data provided by the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office. An additional 172 non-fatal overdoses occurred in that same timeframe countywide, the data indicates.
While progress has been made on addressing the issue, Hargis said the community still lacks a 24-hour crisis response service, meaning that during off-hours, some people are taken to Frederick Health Hospital for treatment. City police also investigate every overdose, with the cooperation of detectives with assistance from a grant-funded analyst specifically focused on opioid statistics and calls.
“So when you start adding these bills up for each and every one of these overdoses, you’re talking several thousand dollars per call, just up front, and the individual may walk out of the hospital in the very near future and overdose all over again,” Hargis said. “So we want the resources that, when we run into individuals and they’re telling us that, ‘I want to get out of this,’ we can immediately transfer that individual to get the help that they need.”
Speaking on behalf of the hospital’s programs, Barth said the hospital spent about $7 million to cover 950 patients — about three patients a day — for substance abuse treatment in the last fiscal year that ended in June. This indicates that many people who receive treatment have had previous contact with recovery services, but did not receive follow-up care, he said.
“That’s money that could have been used on something else, something like a heart attack, or a stroke, that we had no control over,” Barth said.