The Compass Health Network, 1700 W. Main St. in Sedalia, this week began offering a Methadone Treatment Program for those wanting to curb the cycle of opioid use and dependency.
Kelly Morris-Duhamell, the Director of Substance Use Recovery for the Southwest Region of Compass Health, has seen an alarming rise in opioid use.
“We did see a decline in some opioid use prior to COVID-19, but with COVID-19 the statistics are showing that that opioid rise has increased,” said Morris-Duhamell. “My perspective is that people have been restricted from participating in services that they may have been doing prior to COVID, meeting in person with their counselor, having community support meetings, substance abuse services that focus on groups. A number of those things were restricted or changed.”
Dependencies begin in two typical ways.
“Somebody that is prescribed an opioid as a painkiller or pain medication to begin with then develops a tolerance to it, so they increase their use or maybe start misusing it in order to decrease their pain level,” said Morris-Duhamell. “On the other side we have situations where people start using substances and then they are using heroin and then that results in an opioid use disorder.”
Though Compass Health has offered virtual counseling sessions, virtual groups have not been as effective.
“For some people, it's just not the same as having your services delivered to you in person,” said Morris-Duhamell. “Currently here at Compass Health in the Sedalia location has a substance use disorder program. People that are identified as having an opioid use disorder are then referred to our Opioid Use Disorder Clinic, which is part of our substance abuse programming. In the current clinic, somebody is assessed for their use and then, if appropriate, it can be prescribed, what is called Suboxone.”
According to the Harvard Medical School, “Suboxone works by tightly binding to the same receptors in the brain as other opiates, such as heroin, morphine, and oxycodone. By doing so, it blunts intoxication with these other drugs, it prevents cravings, and it allows many people to transition back from a life of addiction to a life of relative normalcy and safety.”
Morris-Duhamell has been trying to help those suffering from opioid dependencies, but the drug use in Missouri and the nation is increasingly involving opioids such as fentanyl.
“What we've also seen is an increase in heroin and fentanyl use,” said Morris-Duhamell. “People that are using methamphetamines are finding that there's fentanyl in there.”
Pettis County Sheriff Brad Anders is also alarmed at how opioids like fentanyl have worked their way into other drugs.
“We've seen fentanyl mixed in a variety of different drugs,” said Anders. “We've seen fentanyl pressed into pills, we’ve seen fentanyl mixed with marijuana, we’ve seen fentanyl mixed with methamphetamine. Fentanyl is an opioid, and it's a very potent opioid. So, when you use that as a cutting agent or just as an additive, that's something that's going to cause some serious health problems and likely death.”
Compass Health is now authorized to treat opioid dependence with methadone. Methadone, like Suboxone, works by lessening the painful symptoms of opiate withdrawal and it doesn’t give the euphoric effect of other opioids. It is longer-lasting than opioids, remaining effective at curbing cravings for 24-36 hours.
“With an opioid, your body becomes physically addicted relatively quickly and you start to experience some serious withdrawals and you don't have that substance in your system, so methadone helps curb that that physical addiction and blocks those physical withdrawal symptoms that you would experience with those that are addicted to opioids,” said Anders. “I would suggest that they utilize this program. It's safer, it's actually administered professionally, and it’s something that you're not going to have to worry about getting a bad batch of fentanyl or something mixed in that you don't know that you bought off the street.”
Compass Health has had to be approved by a number of agencies to administer methadone treatments.
“We initially had to apply to the Department of Mental Health,” said Morris-Duhamell. “They had an extensive application process and a certification process, and we’re provisionally certified with them. After that, we needed to register with the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. From there we submitted an application to the Drug Enforcement Administration, and they have come and done a walkthrough of our building as well.”
Once a patient has been prescribed methadone through Compass Health, their path to freedom from opioid dependency can begin.
“They would receive their first dose of methadone which is dispensed on a daily basis,” said Morris-Duhamell. “They would come during our dispensing hours and a nurse does the dispensing of the methadone. We will be open six days a week and then the seventh day will be a take home.”
Compass Health is also offering overdose education and encourages opioid users to learn how to get access to Narcan and administer it to save an overdose victim.
To schedule an initial appointment for Compass Health Network’s opioid treatment program or to receive methadone, call 844-853-8937 or visit www.CompassHealthNetwork.org.