The future of treatment for people with drug addictions is looking bright, as long as the funding holds out.
Les McAslin, chief executive officer for ADAMhs, provided an update to the Fulton Board of County Commissioners recently. Changes in approaches to treatment from filling beds to using medicine to assist in the process has helped immensely.
One bright spot is the agency’s health center in Bryan where the facility has seen a sudden growth in the number of patients since it opened its doors, McAslin said. The facility will save ADAMhs $200,000 a year depending on medications.
“I remember telling my board if it doesn’t work out, I’ll retire,” McAslin said about the all-in project. “It was either that or do a new levy and I wasn’t going to do that.”
The dark cloud to the success of the Bryan operation is the response has been overwhelming. The staff is “absolutely underwater over there.”
No one had any idea it would have the response, McAslin said. Demand come from not only individuals off the street, but also substance abusers. Treating addicts is the small part, it’s the primary health care and the dental which brings in the numbers, he said.
“We partnered with Health Partners of Western Ohio for a qualified healthcare center,” McAslin said. “The main reason we partnered with them is they could get medications through the federal government for pennies on the dollar.”
ADAMhs was buying medicine through the state at almost $1 million per year.
“We started out with literally a fold out table and two exam rooms in the drug recovery center in Bryan. “I thought the total number of people we would see would be 150-175 in a year and those would primarily be addicts with physical health issues.
“All of a sudden, we had like 306 and the next month was like 527 then it goes up to 700. They needed more space, but the state was cutting their budget for medication. A building came up in Bryan (the old Kroger) and the agency went in with Health Partners.”
The ADAMhs board put in $1.2 million and Health Partners put in $2 million. The response was overwhelming. The number of patients spiked from 700 to more than 3,000 overnight. The waiting list for dental care stands at 800.
People with opiate addiction are getting care through medicated assisted treatment. At an open house, seven people walked in and asked how they could get started with the program, McAslin said.
The cost for medicines has fallen from $900,000 to $19.23 over the past two years. This includes medicines for opiate addictions as well as physical ailments.
The cost per person is about $20 per person. Multiply that by 7,000 persons seen every year and the savings can add up quickly.
“When I said, I was all in on that, it was all or nothing. There is nothing like it in Ohio,” McAslin said. “We are the only board partnered with a federally qualified health care center.”
His success will lead him to Columbus to talk with other agency heads and ask them why they aren’t doing this. The success of the Bryan facility has opened a door to build something similar in Napoleon.
The agency plans to replicate the success of Bryan in Fulton County, McAslin said. The agency applied for a grant but missed out by a couple of points. But all is not lost as McAslin was told other groups that got grants may not be ready and they should ready to go at a moment’s notice.
The agency could start tomorrow if the funding came through, McAslin said. It could start without funding on a smaller scale and working with the hospital in Wauseon. Since dental costs so much as a startup (plumbing), it won’t be part of the Fulton effort until the funding is approved.
“There is absolutely no reason for anyone to say they couldn’t get help,” McAslin said.
Because the system is working so well, McAslin has no plans to seek an increase in funding and no plans to seek a new levy.
“Unless the ACA goes down the tubes; the voters would have to come up with $2.8 million.
As for the new place in Napoleon, McAslin brought commissioners up to speed. Fresh Start used to run the local facility until about three years ago, when the outfit could no longer run the operation. Renewed Mind took over and in McAslin’s view did a wonderful job, but the physical plant has run its course.
He called the Department of Mental Health and informed them of the crumbling building. The department came through with $400,000 and ADAMhs matched it with $400,000 and Renewed Mind covered the rest.
“It will be a replacement for Fresh Start,” McAslin said.
The facility will have 16 beds with a couple more for stabilization and an outpatient section. A facility for women is being operated in Fayette.
“The area will not be without those services,” McAslin said.
The driving force for medication assisted treatment is not filling beds. That thinking is like the idea that society can arrest itself out of trouble, neither can it defeat addiction by putting people in bed.
A 500-bed facility could be built and in six months nothing would change from today, he said. Without intervention, there won’t be any progress.
The presence of a drug court in Williams County and the new one in Fulton County will help and will open federal and state funding streams. But the best weapon is a patient who is tired of being sick, he said.
On a positive note, the number of opiate-related deaths have remained steady. Fulton County had nine deaths in 2012, but six each of the last two years.
James Pruitt may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org