Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

November 15, 2012

Drug treatment: McDowell eyes additional facilities

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— The horrific drug epidemic that has plagued the region in recent years has also taken a particularly troubling toll upon McDowell County. That’s why it is encouraging to learn that two drug-treatment facilities planned for the county are inching closer to reality.

Delegate Clif Moore, D-McDowell, who also serves as county manager for McDowell County, says the long-planned Suboxone treatment clinic could open as early as December. It would serve approximately 24 clients at a time once it opens at the Southern Highlands Community Mental Health Center in Welch.

The clinic is being developed through cooperation between county leaders, Southern Highlands, and West Virginia University. As part of the plan, doctors from WVU will teleconference with patients at the clinic as part of the treatment services.

The Suboxone clinic is being developed with grant funding assistance from WVU, according to Judy Akers, director and chief executive officer of Southern Highlands Community Mental Health Center in Welch. She says there is already a waiting list of potential clients hoping to utilize the Suboxone clinic.

“We are hoping to have it open in December,” Akers said last week. “This treatment will include group therapy and WVU will supply a psychiatrist who can order the Suboxone for the clients. Suboxone helps people get off opiates, but unlike methadone it completely weans the person off in a year or so rather than making them dependent on it. These groups will be co-ed groups of men and women.”

A Once a client completes his or her treatment in a 12-month period, they go off Suboxone and no longerthave to keep up with group therapy, Akers said. When one client completes his or her treatment, it will open up space at the clinic for another client.

 Southern Highlands also is working to help get another treatment facility off the ground in McDowell County. The second facility is proposed as a 90-day residential treatment clinic for women. As currently proposed, the clients at the all-female facility will be detoxed at a hospital or crisis unit before beginning treatment at the facility.

The project had been delayed due to the challenge of finding available land outside of the flood plain. However, a site has now been selected, and construction is expected to begin in the spring.

“Once it begins, construction should take four to five months,” Akers said. “The state is contracting out the project, so we are very hopeful this will begin in the spring. It is something we have been wanting for a long time. This project has been three years in the making.”

 Moore said officials also remain hopeful that McDowell County will be selected as the site of one of the regional detox treatment facilities proposed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

It is our hope too that the new facilities will be up and running soon. There is clearly a need for the treatment centers, and a waiting list of county residents who are actively seeking help. In the meantime, county officials must continue their fight against the rampant scourge of prescription drug abuse in our region.