New mobile health clinic to expand addiction treatment in Grand
Beginning this fall, addiction treatment services will be easier to find in Grand County thanks to the expansion of a mobile health unit offering medication assisted treatment for substance use disorder.
Through Mountain Medical Road to Recovery, an addiction treatment center based out of Steamboat Springs, the Colorado Mobile Health Unit will offer services in Fraser, Granby and Kremmling once a week come November. The unit will also stop in Oak Creek and Walden.
“(Medication-assisted treatment) is really a key to helping people have long-term recovery, and that’s what we’re proposing to bring into Jackson and Grand,” said Nancy Beste, executive director of Road to Recovery. “We will be, in November, starting to visit different hard to reach locations.”
Medication assisted treatment utilizes prescriptions like buprenorphine (Suboxone) and naltrexone (Vivitrol), as well as counseling to help people overcome substance use disorder.
While Grand County hasn’t been hit as hard by the opioid epidemic as other parts of the state, alcohol, opioid and substance use have been identified as a top health priority in the county’s public health plans since at least 2001.
According to local health officials, some of the most common addictions in the county are alcohol, opioids and, lately, methamphetamine.
“There’s some really chronic and heavy alcohol use,” said Amanda Uehlein, program coordinator for Grand County Rural Health Network. “Meth, I think, is increasing as well.”
Local addiction treatment services are limited because Grand County doesn’t have a detox center aside from the emergency room, nor is there an induction option, which is the first step after detox for a medication assisted treatment plan.
Mind Springs Health in Granby offers a telehealth option for people who have already started on a medication assisted treatment program, so the addition of the mobile unit services would help fill the gap.
“I don’t think families and providers are feeling like there are any options, especially for detox,” Uehlein said. “Having an option locally, I think, would better our chances to get that foot in the door.”
The proposed schedule for the Colorado Mobile Health Unit includes stops at Middle Park Health in Kremmling on Mondays, Safeway in Fraser on Tuesdays, and Granby on Wednesdays.
The program also plans to train local providers to continue the services long term, including increasing the number of providers who have waivers to prescribe medication assisted treatment.
Beste noted the mobile health unit will be discreet and offer services outside of addiction treatment, such as non-opioid pain management. It will be staffed by a nurse, a psychotherapist and a peer coordinator, as well as offer telehealth options for specialized care.
Aside from bringing more services to the area, the mobile health unit also helps reduce some of the stigma around medication assisted treatment, which is often seen as replacing one drug with another, Beste said.
“A person (suffering from addiction) can be a productive member of society if they’re given appropriate medical support to make the choice to go into recovery,” she said.
Despite a negative reputation, medication assisted treatment is actually described as “the gold standard” by experts because research shows it can decrease the all-cause mortality rate in addiction patients by 50% or more.
Beste explained this is because the medication allows a person to avoid experiencing some of the more severe symptoms of withdrawal that make it hard to function and overcome addiction.
“We use medications to help stabilize people so that they feel well enough to engage in behavioral health and other therapies,” she said. “It works because addiction is a disease, not a choice.”
She sees proof of this at the clinic in Steamboat Springs, where last year they had 120 people using medication assisted treatment. Those in treatment for six months or longer have fewer hospital visits and run-ins with law enforcement, and can generally hold down a stable job, Beste said.
In order to make the mobile health unit sustainable, Beste is also applying for up to $400,000 in state grant money to expand medication assisted treatment services in Grand and Jackson counties next year.
Ahead of the Colorado Mobile Health Unit starting its regular schedule in Grand County, Road to Recovery will be conducting outreach this fall to determine the final schedule and services.
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