Health Check: Expansion to help people addicted to opioids

A viewer recently reached out to ABC 13 News -- a viewer addicted to pain killers.

She said she had been a part of the Suboxone program at Horizon Behavioral Health and was really getting her life back together.

Suboxone is the medication prescribed to opioid addicts.

But Horizon Behavioral Health had to stop the program over the summer -- and this viewer said she couldn't find help anywhere else to get treatment.

There wasn't a Medicaid funded program for her and she couldn't afford the prescription out of pocket.

Sadly, this viewer said she was back to buying pain pills on the streets.

Horizon CEO Damien Cabezas said a combination of things forced them terminate the Suboxone program: funding and staffing.

Cabezas said they don't have enough psychiatrists in the Commonwealth to prescribe the medication to all of the people who need it.

"Right now there's 300,000 people estimated to have an addiction that they can't get services for,” Cabezas explained.

In Central Virginia he estimated 35,000 people don't have access.

The good news is that in April Cabezas said these services will be covered under an expanded substance use initiative.

There's also a new federal law just approved that allows nurse practitioners and physician's assistants to prescribe suboxone as of February 1st.

"The continuum of care that's lacking right now will be established and that's really exciting, and in addition to that there will be peer supports which is not covered under Medicaid now," Cabezas said.

Horizon also just got a two year grant from the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services that will reopen the Suboxone clinic.

The money is in place, Cabezas said they're just trying to find staff to run the program right now.

“We have an aggressive recruitment campaign going on to recruit more nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants,” Cabezas said.

Horizon is planning for a major expansion this year too.

“We're increasing our detoxification beds from 6 to 16,” Cabezas explained. “Our crisis stabilization beds from 10 to 16. We're also looking at expanding our residential substance abuse for men and women.”

In 2017 Cabezas believes all of these new initiatives will save a lot of lives.

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