Highland Medical Center To Launch Medication Assisted Addiction Treatment Program

Addiction is a problem which knows no geographic boundaries, and the Allegheny Highlands are not immune. I recently spoke with a provider from the Highland Medical Center about a new medication assisted program to help with addiction coming in October.

“My name is Connie Turner, I work at the Highland Medical Center and I’m a family nurse practitioner. Part of my nurse practitioner experience in Western Mass, as is everywhere in the country, if you work in primary care or in health care in general, is that you will see patients who need specialty care, and one of those areas is addiction medicine. So, seeing those patients can be a challenge for providers and patients alike. So I felt it was really important to try to find a way to provide that medical care to those folks within the context of primary care. Historically, it’s been provided outside of primary care with, psychiatrists prescribing these medications or specialty clinics – standalone clinics largely for profit. So I was looking for another approach and felt like it made a lot of sense to provide this within the context of primary care. Most importantly, because when you get folks in who do need substance use treatment, that it’s a fine opportunity for them to get their other healthcare needs met.”

She spoke more about the program’s beginning.

“Well, we have a wonderful team here of behavioral health, quality assurance, case management, the front desk, I mean, everyone is part of our team here. So we’re starting our launch, with the team in place, October 1st.”

“We can provide behavioral health for all substance use disorders, which would be opioid, tobacco, and alcohol use disorders, and any of the other substances. There’s behavioral health support that is highly effective. However, there’s some unique need for opioid, alcohol, and tobacco to have medication assisted treatment as well as behavioral health.”

She continued, “How I’ve seen it work best for folks, is that they know themselves best, so you meet them where they’re at. And some folks find that they prefer group treatment in addition to medication assisted treatment and not individual’s therapy. Some people engage in other activities such as church related support. There’s a lot of online options and peer support, as well –  whatever works for the individual person. We’d like to be able to help them and send them in the right direction, if we can provide that within this community or perfect communities.”

I asked how prevalent she felt addiction issues were in our area.

”What I would say to that is, we don’t know who exists in our direct community who may need the support services. You know, for example, when I worked in Western Mass, I often had clients come, and patients come, from as far away as Boston. The demographics of folks that are addicted to all these different substances may or may not be in this county. I’m not real familiar with that, but certainly, I think probably the alcohol and tobacco use demographics mirror the country, you know, that, I would expect that to be true. But given that it’s such an insulated and tight community, there might be more awareness of it and more impact that folks are aware of. What I understand, a colleague of mine who sees patients for addiction in stand in Staunton and Augusta County, that there are folks that come from Highland County to seek treatment. So I think it probably mirrors the rest of the population, maybe to a lesser degree in Highland County, but I’m not sure.”

“If you’re interested in knowing more about the program, personally or from , you know, knowing a family member, we can have you be seen here. We’ll do an initial intake, and that basically involves about an hour conversation to determine whether or not the person interested has the” disorder.” And then if a person meets the criteria for that, then we talk about treatment options, and how the process of getting treatment happens in a four phase process here.”

“The first phase is where folks come in and they have the established diagnosis, then there’s lab work and urine and that sort of thing that get done in the first initial visit, and a complete physical exam. They’re seen as frequently as once weekly after they receive what we call an induction, which is getting the medication into your system, and appropriate dosage, and have that established. Usually it’s a weekly visit, and then as folks feel they are able to take the medication at home, and they’re doing it in a way that they feel more comfortable, that the medication is working for them, then they will come less frequently and then that becomes every two weeks we see them. And then finally, the final phase is monthly.”

More information can be found by calling 540-468-6412.

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle. scott@amrmail.org

Current Weather