America’s fight against opioid addiction is coming to Henry County – and it will be a “group” effort.
Thursday, members of the New Castle-Henry County Economic Development Corp. Board learned about a new, innovative treatment center slated to open here in November called “Groups.” The facility, located in the Castle Pointe Plaza, is slated to open Nov. 5.
Joe Henry, the Central Indiana regional manager for the company, was guest speaker for the EDC’s October meeting and said the company concept had a proven track record of success.
Henry said Groups provides affordable and effective treatment for opioid addiction through weekly group therapy with licensed counselors and Suboxone medication prescribed by waivered physicians.
Founded four years ago in New Hampshire by doctors from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center who “wanted to meet the opioid epidemic head on,” the company has grown to 52 offices in six states, with 400 groups meeting each week.
Henry said if someone addicted to opioids gives this program six months of dedicated effort, the results can be life-changing. Statistics provided by the company show after six months, 95 percent of patients are attending counseling sessions every week and that 85 percent of them are totally abstinent from opiates.
Henry said Suboxone doses were carefully monitored.
“Suboxone is capped at no more than 16 mg per day,” Henry said. “We try to keep everything evidence-based. It is proven there is no benefit above 16 milligrams – no therapeutic benefit, no benefit for cravings. We will go up to 24 mg per day for a pregnant woman.”
Henry said the company wanted to come here because of what they were seeing in a neighboring clinic.
“We know from operating in Connersville that we had some folks coming down from this area to seek treatment there,” Henry said. “Connersville has been one of the biggest offices in our company for the last two years. We’ve seen enough evidence to support a need here as well.”
Henry advised the Groups program is for opioid addiction only and isn’t for everyone.
“We do a lot of education when they first come to us, making sure they’ve been clean for awhile before they start our medication,” Henry said. “When they come in to see us, they need to be in withdrawal, otherwise that medication is going to make them very sick. We really want to see them be successful and we’re not doing them a good service if we say ‘oh yeah, take it right away’ and they get sick, then don’t come back.”
But Henry said if someone locally needs and qualifies for the kind of help Groups can provide, admission is much quicker than many other programs.
“Admission for a pregnant woman is usually within 24 hours,” Henry said. “Anyone else, our goal is to have them in within seven days. There’s a lot of programs where there are 60-day wait lists. When someone wants help, you’ve got a small window to get them in and get them started on a quality program. If you miss that individual, they may not come back. So we really hard to bring them in during that seven days.”
Henry said the program goal is to completely taper people off of Suboxone within 24 to 36 months. That’s done by strict adherence to rules, faithful attendance at group meetings and careful monitoring, including random pill counts.
“If they don’t have the correct number of pills or fail a drug test, they are immediately discharged from the program,” Henry said.
Once open here, Groups will take patients 18 and older on a walk-in basis as well as referral from probation or community corrections programs. Henry emphasized the company is a “for profit” business but maintained the $65 weekly charge was more than competitive.
“The amount of money they are spending currently to support their habits far exceeds the $65 per week our program costs,” he said. “What are they doing to support that habit? If we’ve got them stabilized and clean, they probably aren’t doing those things.”
Henry said he’s seen township government officials and local churches help with costs if needed.
One of the EDC members cited a report stating Indiana had 10 percent more opioid prescriptions than its entire population. Henry said 91 Americans die every day from an overdose. The company motto summed up its mission: “The only thing harder than beating opiates is doing it alone.”