Drug deaths and overdoses are on the rise in Franklin County, but treatment options for users who want to kick their addictions are hard to find, or out of reach.
One service available for those in the throes of drug addiction is through New Vision at Missouri Baptist Hospital in Sullivan, but Service Coordinator Stephanie Shelton says it’s not enough.
“We typically see 300 patients per year,” Shelton said. “Of those we have about a 40 percent readmission rate.”
Shelton explained the New Vision program is a three-to five-day medically supervised stabilization treatment where medicines are given to addicts to counteract the affects of opiates.
“Our program is voluntary only,” Shelton said. “Someone has to say, ‘I want to get clean.’ We average 20 to 25 patients each month but we’ve had 30 the last month or two.”
She added the deciding factors are different for everyone.
“They have hit rock bottom,” Shelton said. “For some they’ve lost their jobs or kids or spouses. It’s different for everybody.”
Although the program is centralized on detox, there is not a dedicated facility for patients, so Shelton said they are given rooms as they are available in the regular hospital setting.
The selection of patients is based on the severity of their withdrawal symptoms, or how “sick” they are.
She added most insurances, including Medicaid and Medicare, will pay for the detox, which depending on the treatment can cost $3,800 to $5,000.
“To cash pay for the program is $3,700,” Shelton said. “Money is a big part of it. Franklin County is one of the poorest. I get it.”
Shelton explained the medications Suboxone and Vivitrol are used to help patients detox.
When Suboxone is built up in a patient’s system, it reacts with opiates when taken and makes the patients very sick.
Vivitrol is given as a shot in muscle tissue and can last up to 28 days by not allowing the patients to feel the effects, or high of opiates.
Once a patient successfully gets the drugs out of their system, they are still addicts and Shelton says aftercare is always needed to ensure success.
Currently there are no inpatient drug rehab facilities located in the county.
The closest facilities of this type are in Cuba, Farmington, St. Louis and Columbia.
“There has been some discussion about a 21- or 28-day facility here,” Shelton said. “It comes down to funding and there just isn’t any.”
The Franklin County Health Department recognizes the epidemic is growing, but like other organizations, money is the deciding factor for the types of services they can offer residents.
Director Angie Hittson explained the county does not offer any direct addiction services.
“Why doesn’t Franklin County have more resources or a treatment center? I don’t know the answer to that,” Hittson said. “Every staff member in my office is working under a grant or a contract that pays their salary and requires them to do the work of that contract.”
Instead, the health department has a resource list to use when working to refer clients in need.
“Obviously each situation is different, so sometimes we are scrambling to find treatment or rehab,” Hittson said. “Sometimes we are dealing with a homeless person that has come into our office because they are trying to escape a life of drugs that are in the home.”
Hittson said she often uses the service providers information, the United Way resources and/or 211.
“Most often it is a matter of calling various places to find somewhere to refer a client,” she said. “In a nutshell, there is not one place and the need is bigger than the resource list that we have.”
For now, Hittson says, with current staffing and funding all she is able to do is start the conversation with other agencies to see what they are doing, how the county can assist and what the biggest needs are.
“My hope is that we can be at the table with this conversation and lend a hand in some way,” Hittson said. “I think this crisis is going to take all of us working together to make a meaningful impact.”