As of Friday, the Portsmouth City Health Department will now be in the counseling business. The Portsmouth City Board of Health passed a resolution approving the expansion of clinical services through the Recovery Gateway Program to reduce drug related morbidity and mortality in Scioto County by reducing barriers to access for substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment and other social services. They also passed a resolution approving the creation of the counselor/case manager position for the Recovery Gateway Program.
The Health Department will now be able to bill for the Counselor/Case Manager’s services which will increase revenue to the Health Department Primary Care Fund allowing for an appropriations request from Portsmouth City Council for $40,000 – funds that will be generated through actual services billed for.
“We are actually starting an AOD (Alcohol and Other Drugs) program here at the Portsmouth City Health Department,” Portsmouth Health Commissioner Chris Smith said. “It’s a licensing that will allow us to do drug counseling and it will also make us eligible for state and federal drug prevention money and grants.”
Smith said the Portsmouth City Health Department already has a successful Vivitrol program. Vivitrol is the first and only once-monthly, non-addictive treatment for opioid or alcohol dependence. It is given by injection once a month and it keeps people from getting high when you take heroin or oxycontin. You must be opioid-free for 7-14 days before starting Vivitrol.
“But that requires counseling and right now we contract out for the counseling,” Smith said. “This new program will allow us to do it in-house, which will make it more convenient for our clients.”
Another program the Portsmouth City Health Department has in place is the needle exchange program. But since it is done with their present staff, they don’t have the time to spend talking with the exchangers and help them get on to a successful recovery program. That will change. The new certification will provide them with the ability to do that counseling.
“We’re going to be working with the local emergency rooms to address people that enter into the ER (Emergency Room) for overdose,” Smith said. “We’ll be providing them linkage to care and attempting also get them into a good drug rehab program.”
Smith said one of the targets is to link addicted individuals up with services already available in the community.
He said the program will be funded with Medicaid reimbursements and billing clients’ private insurance.
“The money saved by counseling in-house will hopefully pay for our counselor and will also pay for other drug prevention activities,” Smith said. “It will again, open us up to funding – state and federal grants.”
While more legislation is providing more money for drug and alcohol treatment, that money is mainly going to a specific venue.
“It’s coming to AOD facilities,” Smith said. “That’s why this program is very important. Right now health departments are cut out of that funding source because we aren’t treatment facilities. This new AOD status will allow us to access that prevention money and help our local treatment facilities.”
Smith said there is another added value to the new program. He said the operators of the program will be able to evaluate the various programs that are now available, which will enable them to guide people to the program best suited to their needs.
“I think this is a great opportunity for the health department,” Portsmouth Mayor Jim Kalb said. “To this point they’ve covered all the services that cost the city money and never received anything back for it, and that is where all the government money is being dumped now – into the treatment part of it.”
Fifth Ward Councilman Gene Meadows, an attorney, said he sees the drug issue every day and referred to it as a revolving door.
“I feel safe to say the majority of people in treatment are only there because the judge has said you’re either going there or you’re going to prison,” Meadows said. “Granted, a pretty good alternative there and I can see why they want to run there. But I’m also seeing them again in six months or less because they had no desire to get clean. They have no desire to stay clean or staying out of prison. That’s not acceptable.”
“You’re 100 percent right. All these treatment facilities, and I’m not talking about any specific here. This is nationwide for profit or they’re non-profit,” Smith said. “These are treatment facilities. Their job is to treat an individual. If that individual comes back for treatment five, six, seven times, you pay five, six, seven times. The difference with our program is that we’re not profit driven – we’re not a non-profit. It’s a different model. We are trying to evaluate the drug problem and try to come with actual solutions for it.”
Marissa Wicker BA, CDCA, is the program director and she said on Thursday she is ready to roll it out.
“I’m very excited,” Wicker said. “This is a service that our community needs and at the Health Department we’re excited to expand what we’re already doing and provide the services.”
Wicker said people desiring their services can stop in at any time at 605 Washington St., in Portsmouth or call 740-353-5153 and speak with a counselor for direction.