Methadone Clinics In My Area – Two friends go to a clinic in Hernando County to get a dose of methadone. They embark on this journey seven days a week to avoid a recurrence of the pill addiction that nearly destroyed their lives.
But it’s not an easy drive from their home in Citrus County, about 90 minutes north of Tampa. Health News Florida is not using Amy or Christy’s last name to protect their identities.
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“She drives from her house … all the way to my house … and we drive all the way here and back,” said Amy, 36, a mother of two grown children.
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The women lived in one of Florida’s 41 counties that did not have a methadone treatment center. Although only 26 of Florida’s 67 counties have clinics, the Department of Children and Families has issued only two licenses for methadone clinics since 2014.
Floridians are dealing with an opioid crisis, which in 2016 nearly 2,800 Floridians have died, thousands of addicts do not have easy access to the gold standard of opioid addiction treatment.
“There’s no excuse,” said Joycelyn Woods, director of the Methadone Assisted Recovery National Alliance, one of the few patient advocacy groups.
Woods says most states have responded to the epidemic by facilitating more methadone programs. Nationally, opioid overdose deaths have been increasing annually for more than a decade, in 2017 alone. 50,000 people died.
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“The state had to put in easements years before people could get licenses,” Woods said. “That’s exactly what they should have done.”
The most recent was in 2017, when the Department of Children and Families issued an emergency order to open 49 new methadone clinics — many in counties where none existed.
But under the state’s first-come, first-served licensing system, three companies were granted the right to open 47 of the 49 new clinics. The missing treatment providers argued the process was unfair, and the judge agreed.
Amy says the distance becomes an excuse not to get help for her friends who are still using.
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“I can’t afford it. I can’t get there. There’s always a reason,” Amy said. “But they don’t realize there’s help.”
Not everyone agrees that methadone is the best opioid treatment. Critics say it replaces one opioid with another. However, statistics show that when a methadone clinic opens, overdose deaths go down, along with drug-related crimes.
The opioid overdose death rate in Citrus County is 32 percent higher than the state average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That was 35 percent more than in southern Hernando County, where the methadone clinic is located.
“I think I lost 8 to 10 people to drug addiction last year alone,” Amy said. “It’s bad. When you live in a small town, it hits home because you know these people, you went to school with these people, you hung out with these people, and they didn’t find a better way.”
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Last month, the Department of Children and Families again issued an emergency order to increase the number of methadone clinics in the state. The order suspended the requirement that the state first decide how many new clinics it wants. DCF officials did not say how many licenses would be issued or where the new clinics would go. She declined to be interviewed for this story.
John Esenberg works with Operation PAR, a counseling and treatment center serving drug addicts throughout the Tampa Bay area. Before the order was issued, he said his company was ready to open clinics in counties where needed.
“Citrus County, Hendry County, Charlotte County for sure,” Essenberg said. “We already have a satellite program in Charlotte.”
But even if permission is granted tomorrow, it will take two years for the new clinic to open, he said.
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Or like Amy and Christy, the long journey. But having methadone is worth it, the women say
“When you start to heal and your life starts to get better, when you start to pick up everything that you’ll never get back, you have a light at the end of the tunnel,” Amy said. “You start moving forward and you know what? Maybe it’s possible. Maybe I’ll get my family back. Maybe I’ll get my kids back. You have some hope. “
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At the treatment center, Elias downs methadone, a red liquid. In the US, it can only be dispensed under federally regulated opioid programs.
To escape the grip of addiction, Loretta Elias struggles to get to a small clinic in Boyle Heights every day, where a carefully measured cup of red liquid awaits her.
Methadone helped the 42-year-old avoid the malaise and cravings that come with trying to get off opioids. Elias admits to helping her stop using fentanyl, a powerful synthetic drug that has killed homeless people in Los Angeles.
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But for Elias, who lives just off Skid Row in the Cecil Hotel, the Boyle Heights clinic is not an easy journey. She uses a walker and because of the hip repair it is painful for her to take the bus. So she relies on Soma, a nonprofit artist and activist who carries snake oil in her Jeep every day.
“The hardest part is getting there,” Elias said. “Soma – she has a lot to do, she wants to help a lot of people. But she is only one person.
Skid Row has long been a downtown area where Los Angeles has cut off services for its poorest. According to federal and local guidelines, when people like Elias are trying to break their opioid addiction, the closest options for daily doses of methadone can be miles away in Boyle Heights, Westlake and South Park. Veterans Affairs also has a clinic downtown that offers methadone treatment, but it only treats veterans who are eligible for care.
“It’s a real challenge for my patients,” said Dr. Emily Thomas said. What health officials have learned, she said, is that you really have to provide health services to homeless people who have been homeless before.
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“This disparity is particularly troubling in an area that is our epicenter of overdoses in Los Angeles County,” Thomas said.
It’s true that Soma Snake Loretta Elias is taken to a methadone treatment program every day to help her stay off fentanyl.
Medications like methadone, which reduce addiction and withdrawal pain, are a critical way to help people overcome opioid addiction, a task that has become increasingly urgent as drug overdose deaths rise. More than 107,000 people are estimated to have died of drug overdoses in the United States last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday, based on preliminary data.
In 2020 According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, less than 12% of adolescents and adults with an opioid use disorder reported receiving medication to help stop opioid abuse in the past year.
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Overdose deaths are on the rise in California, and doctors say addiction medicine has a lot of potential. Why aren’t more patients receiving this?
That’s “key to solving the opioid epidemic,” said Jason Kletter, president of the California Opioid Care Providers Group, which represents treatment providers statewide. “We know it works. We know that combining medication with counseling is truly the gold standard.
Methadone isn’t the only drug available to people trying to quit opioids: In Los Angeles, Thomas and others at Housing for Health sought easier access to Suboxone, which includes the prescription drug buprenorphine and is not as heavily restricted as methadone. The Department of Health Services fills monthly prescriptions for people living on the streets, an easier option for many Angelenos than coming to a clinic for methadone every day.
However, buprenorphine is not the best choice for everyone. For some fentanyl users, this can lead to a painful withdrawal experience. Elias said he tried Suboxone but experienced pain when providers had trouble measuring the right dose.
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“It’s the hardest to get there,” resident Elias says
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