KYLE WIND, STAFF WRITER Published: July 4, 2015
Lackawanna County’s drug treatment community wants to combat the region’s heroin epidemic with a greater emphasis on medication-assisted treatments, like methadone and Vivitrol.
Lackawanna County Treatment Court and the Lackawanna/Susquehanna Office of Drug and Alcohol Programs applied for $253,000 in state funding to launch an 11-month pilot program to treat 20 people with severe addiction problems.
The idea is to better address the underlying problems of repeat offenders. The money from the joint grant would be provided by several state agencies, including the Commission on Crime and Delinquency, the Department of Human Services and the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
“Despite the host of services offered, relapse and thus re-offense continue to plague the county’s law enforcement and addiction support system,” the grant application said. “Current county statistics find that 75 percent of county offenders have previously experienced some form of therapy for drug/alcohol addictions. Consider, according to the coroner, Lackawanna County averages one heroin overdose every five days.”
Habit OPCO in Dunmore would administer methadone or buprenorphine treatments to half of the patients, while Scranton-based Paul Remick, D.O., would administer the Vivitrol program.
In both cases, treatments would be part of a holistic package that includes counseling, social services and connecting patients with groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, said Bo Hoban, director of the Lackawanna/Susquehanna County Drug and Alcohol Program.
“Medication alone is not a way to get people on the path to recovery,” he said.
Vivitrol is administered monthly instead of daily like methadone, can treat alcohol dependence as well as opioid addiction and — also unlike methadone — does not provide any risk of patients getting addicted, said Barbara Durkin, treatment court coordinator.
The problem is, treatments also cost about $1,100 per month — substantially more than methadone — and can be more difficult to persuade health insurers to cover.
The grant program is still contingent on state budget negotiations.
If the money comes through, officials would look for more funding streams and try to connect patients with health insurance to sustain it after 11 months.