WATERTOWN — With financial support from the Office of Addiction Services and Supports and the North Country Initiative, the Credo Community Center for the Treatment of Addictions has announced plans for a mobile medication treatment unit.
The unit will provide drug treatment to people in communities with limited access and mobile screenings, assessments, counselling, injections, toxicology testing, harm reduction training, education and peer services .
The unit will be strictly for drug therapy to treat opioid use disorder, according to Credo executive director John C. Wilson.
Tracy Leonard, director of operations for Credo, wrote the OASAS grant for funding, and the agency received $200,000 from OASAS to purchase a vehicle. Credo then saw that there was an opportunity for innovation dollars through NCI. Credo applied and received an additional $31,200, which will go towards the salary of a licensed practical nurse for the unit.
“It will be a financial model that responds to the needs of the populations around the counties,” Wilson said. “Being mobile, it goes to places where people wouldn’t necessarily be willing to travel or move. We would relate that to where they were, where they live.
There are only a handful of opioid treatment programs in the North, and only two that offer drug treatment, or MAT – Credo in Watertown and the Plattsburgh Outpatient Clinic in Conifer Park, leaving communities struggling serviced in between, Ms. Leonard said.
Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence counties are sparsely populated, and together they are geographically expansive. In rural communities, lack of access to care is compounded by other factors, including the needs of incarcerated people.
“The distance between OTP clinics and the rural nature of our region allows for important medications to be brought to people who might not necessarily get them,” Wilson said of the mobile unit. “We’ve had conversations here about how we could also help prisons and prison populations use it as well. It’s a little fuzzy as to what makes the most sense, but we’ll find out.
The mobile unit will be an RV or similar vehicle to allow medical and clinical space to dose methadone. Methadone is a long-acting opioid used to treat chronic pain and addiction. In liquid, powder or tablet form, methadone reduces cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
Mr Wilson said the need for space could stall the process, as estimates of arrival of large enough vehicles are between six and nine months after ordering.
Credo recently had a kick-off meeting with OASAS before ordering the vehicle. The agency has a loose plan, but needs to see where the need is greatest in the tri-county area. Other opioid treatment providers are starting to open up further north, Wilson said.
Credo’s budget submitted to OASAS called for a staff of three, including one person for security. The NCI funding will only cover part of a nurse’s salary, leaving the costs for a clinician and the security guard.
According to Leonard, Credo must meet vehicle specifications set by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration. The vehicle will likely need to be customized to meet the regulations.
The mobile unit represents an on-the-road approach to the services Credo already provides at its West Main Street site, Ms. Leonard said.
“Part of what we’re looking to do is see how we can work with schools, the legal system, businesses, community organizations and build connections, awareness and strengthen referral networks,” Ms Leonard said. “We can create education and awareness around harm reduction, Narcan training and other things along those lines, thereby improving the continuum of care overall for people with opioid use disorders. , substance use disorder or mental illness.”
Mr Wilson said he always challenges people to think about why addiction is viewed differently than any other disease like heart disease or diabetes – the treatment is similar in that addiction-related disorders substance use are medical conditions and that Credo can provide lifesaving medications.
“When people have MAT on board in their system, they’re extremely less likely to overdose and die and I think people miss that,” Wilson said. “If it was their sibling, their son or their daughter, they would be very inclined to hope that they had these drugs so they wouldn’t die and that they could actually get the help they needed.”