BHN, Community Health Center launch opioid treatment program in Orange

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 12-17-2021 5:40 PM

ORANGE — Behavioral Health Network has partnered with the Community Health Center of Franklin County to start the state’s first rural methadone clinic, which opened this past week.

The new Orange Opioid Treatment Program is located at 119 New Athol Road, Suite 210, at a co-location within the Community Health Center’s newest facility.

Methadone is a daily medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat opioid use disorder.

The clinic is open Monday through Friday, 5:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Dosing hours are Monday through Friday, 5:45 a.m. to noon, and Saturday and Sunday, 7 to 10 a.m. The Community Health Center will continue to offer buprenorphine and injectable naltrexone to aid those in recovery.

“The North Quabbin has been a treatment desert for a really long time, specifically a methadone desert,” said Rachel Katz, a family nurse practitioner who serves as the director of the Community Health Center’s substance use treatment program. “And the role of the Community Health Center, in partnering with BHN, is to really raise the community collaboration to serve patients in this rural region to bring more access to addiction treatment, both on our side, through Suboxone and Vivitrol, but then also specifically for the methadone side.”

Behavioral Health Network offers acute treatment, residential recovery homes, clinical stabilization, transitional support services, outpatient treatment, recovery coaching and driver alcohol education services through the Massachusetts Impaired Driver Program.

Dr. Ruth Potee, Behavioral Health Network’s medical director for substance use disorders, said the clinic had served about 10 people since opening at the beginning of the week.

“And the time for methadone has never been greater. Like, the overdose rates, locally, are the highest they’ve ever been. Everybody knows that this is the year with the highest (number of) opioid deaths,” she said. “And methadone is often the treatment that is the most effective, in the fentanyl era. So bringing it to this part of the state is really critical.

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“What we anticipate is that there’s going to be transfers. There’s people who are driving, who are taking the bus all day to get to Leominster or to Greenfield … Worcester, wherever they’re going — and now they don’t have to do that,” she continued. “And when you don’t have to get on a bus and drive somewhere all day you can take care of your kids, take care of your yard, you can go to work, you can get your life back and actually access lifesaving treatment in your own backyard.”

Potee explained people can walk in any day for methadone at one of two dosing stations, though someone can be started on a program only two days a week, where there is a physician on site. In these cases, the clinic’s professionals will help people devise a plan to get help until a physician is available.

Potee and Katz said patients consume the methadone as a small amount of flavored liquid. Potee said it reduces the sickness related to withdrawal and decreases cravings “so people can build their lives back and do what it is that they were meant to do on this planet.” The medical director said methadone clinics, which are highly regulated, may one day become obsolete if the medication can be dispensed from pharmacies, like other countries allow.

Dr. Steve Winn, Behavioral Health Network’s president and CEO, said the clinic fills a long-unmet void in the area.

“At times, people choose not to take that form of treatment because it’s so inconvenient,” the psychologist said, referring to the clinic as cutting edge.

Dr. Allison van der Velden, Community Health Center’s CEO, said it feels “right up our alley” to partner with Behavioral Health Network and said it is a special opportunity to operate under the same roof.

“It’s just a really exciting development for us,” she said.

Call 978-674-7240 for more information about the new Orange Opioid Treatment Program. Most insurance plans are accepted.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or
413-772-0261, ext. 262.

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