News

Methadone clinic could be opened near Hanover

Written by Jennifer Wentz/Hanover Evening Sun | Jul 31, 2015 1:14 PM
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Photo by AP Photo/Steve Legge

(Undated) -- About 50 people recovering from opiate addictions in Adams and western York counties drove 45 minutes or more, every day, to receive methadone treatments last year, according to county statistics.

That's because the closest methadone clinic is in eastern York County. Steve Warren and other members of the York/Adams Drug and Alcohol Commission want to change that by opening another methadone clinic near Hanover.

The proposal is still in its early stages, said Warren, who serves as commission administrator. The commission hopes to have a provider for the clinic narrowed down by this fall, but because the group still has to find an acceptable location, no timeline exists yet for when the clinic might open.

When it does, though, area officials hope it will help combat the growing number of heroin and prescription drug additions in the Hanover-Adams area.

Benefits and risks

Methadone, a synthetic opiate, works by occupying the brain receptors that are usually stimulated by opiates like heroin and prescription painkillers, Warren explained. People recovering from illegal addictions can stay on the drug for months or years, using it to avoid the painful withdrawal symptoms typically associated with quitting opiates.

"The brain responds to it the same way it would with heroin," Warren said. "The only difference is the person doesn't get the high, and they're able to function daily the way you or I would."

The medication, though, only stays in people's systems for 24 hours, meaning they have to take it daily. And because it is a synthetic opioid that, like heroin, can lead to addiction or fatal overdose, it has to be distributed by an accredited clinic.

The need for daily transportation to a clinic is often one of the biggest hurdles people face when they choose methadone treatments, Warren said, meaning the closer county officials can bring a clinic to the people who need it, the better.

Methadone, though, is somewhat controversial in addiction treatment communities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Critics have cited the belief that methadone treatment merely substitutes one addiction for another and that achieving a drug-free state is the only valid treatment goal," the CDC's methadone factsheet states.

The drug can also be abused, and, like any other opiate, has a value when sold on the street, Warren said.

Still, the medication can be a powerful tool for people who might not otherwise quit illegal drugs, and, when administered in accordance with federal guidelines, has minimal risks, he said.

The Drug and Alcohol Commission's current clinic in York County ensures that methadone users undergo counseling in addition to their medicinal treatment and tests patients regularly to ensure they are no longer abusing illicit substances like heroin.

Warren and many others, including the CDC, believe methadone is one of many viable options for treating addiction.

"I think that a treatment facility in our area would be beneficial knowing that there is only one clinic in York County," said Hanover Borough Police Chief Dwayne Smith. "The more treatment options our citizens have, the better."

Next steps

Members of the Drug and Alcohol Commission already know a lot about this proposed clinic. They know the state's Department of Human Services will fund its construction. They know health insurance, medical assistance or designated county funds will help patients pay the $100-per-week costs of treatment.

They also know, though, that making the clinic a reality will not be easy, at least if prior experience is any indication.

The commission's Springettsbury Township center had to change its planned location multiple times because of snags in funding or concerns from neighbors who didn't want to live next to a methadone clinic.

"There was a great deal of community resistance," Warren said.

A little more than five years ago, though, officials found a relatively isolated plot of York County-owned land between the prison and a nursing home. They built a facility and leased it to Pyramid Healthcare, which runs the methadone clinic, and White Deer Runs, which operates a detoxification and inpatient program. The commission was even able to arrange public transportation to and from the facility.

Warren said he hopes they can find an equally suitable place for patients near Hanover and Adams County.

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