Heather Gates, President & CEO of new methadone clinic in Enfield says it will fill a critical need

February 09, 2018

By Kym Soper 
Journal Inquirer

ENFIELD — Community Health Resources has launched a new methadone clinic at its 153 Hazard Ave. outpatient facility in the Hazardville section of town.

 

The project, which began about two years ago, hopes to serve 300 clients within the next six months.

The need is there, CHR President Heather Gates said Monday, noting that Enfield was identified by the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services as being one of the top 10 communities in need of opiate addiction services.

“It took a long time to get the funds and retrofit the building” to meet federal regulations, Gates said, adding that $250,000 in state bonds was used as seed money.

The nonprofit clinic builds on the town’s adoption of Manchester’s “HOPE Initiative” — a plan that partners police with health care and addiction specialists to get those who otherwise would be arrested into treatment.

The clinic will be all-inclusive, Gates said, providing three addiction medications: methadone, Suboxone, and Vivitrol, while also providing recovery and housing support.

“The demand has been growing and I do hope, in all honesty, that it goes down,” Gates said, pointing to Massachusetts’ widespread treatment programs and reduction in overdose deaths as an example to emulate.

“Connecticut has done a good job of getting Narcan out there,” she said of the overdose antidote that’s carried by most emergency responders. “But the long-term needs are still a growing problem here.”

Enfield Mayor Michael Ludwick said Monday that he was unaware the clinic had opened, but was encouraged by the work that would be done there.

“From my understanding of CHR’s programs, their goals are to help folks become less dependent upon drugs. So if even one individual is able to break their addiction because of CHR’s assistance, then that is a positive result for our community,” Ludwick said.

The clinic obtained its state license in July and hired staff, including a psychiatrist, recovery coach, social workers, and nurses, with the hope of opening last fall. But that was put on hold after its application to be a Medicaid provider was temporarily stymied.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said it wouldn’t enroll new Connecticut providers until the state agency that manages the funds complied with certain federal regulations, Gates said.

CHR got its final approval to bill Medicaid last week.

Gates expects the Enfield clinic to cost about $1 million annually.

The agency has a similar clinic in Putnam that operates at roughly $750,000 a year, serving about 220 to 250 clients in that area.

Other high-need areas identified by the state include Manchester, which has a methadone clinic on Broad Street run by the Hartford Dispensary.

Until now, Enfield area residents receiving methadone treatment were sent there or to a clinic in Hartford to receive their daily dose.

A narcotic pain reliever similar to morphine, methadone typically is prescribed and handed out daily at these clinics to reduce withdrawal symptoms of those trying to break a heroin or opiate addiction.

It’s highly regulated and requires secure areas for the controlled substance.

“It’s an extensive program to run, but if it’s successful, it’s something that keeps them out of hospitals and keeps them alive and productive members of society,” she said. “People have misguided perceptions of those on methadone. It’s really no different than needing to take a medication for depression or high cholesterol.

“Opiates change your brain chemistry, and this treatment means not only the difference between life or death, but the ability to return to a normal life, have a job, pay taxes, and have a family,” she added.

As a nonprofit, CHR provides mental health, substance abuse, child welfare, supportive housing, foster care, and prevention and wellness programs throughout much of the eastern half of the state, serving over 24,000 adults and children a year.

Those wanting to take advantage of the new program can call the assessment center at 1-877-884-3571.

Journal Inquirer reporter Will Healey contributed to this story.

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