Sen. Jeanne Shaheen met with officials from the LRGHealthcare Recovery Clinic at Franklin Regional Hospital last Friday. From left to right are Marge Kerns, Vice President of Clinical Services, Daisy Pierce, Executive Director of Navigating Recovery, Shaheen, Dr. Paul Racicot, and Corey Gately, Clinical Program Director for Recovery. (Photo by Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
November 07, 2018FRANKLIN – U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen met with senior representatives of the LRGHealthcare Recovery Clinic at Franklin Regional Hospital last Friday to hear about their Medication-Assisted Treatment program (MAT) and its effectiveness in battling the state's opioid crisis.
Dr. Paul Racicot led the discussion off, saying that looking back over the past few years since the clinic open, a lot has happened. Most importantly, in the past two years they have come to see a 70-percent reduction in emergency room visits for people who overdose on opioids.
"That doesn't mean that people aren't overdosing, though. They just aren't dying from it as much," Racicot said.
One reason for the decline he felt is that many of the high-risk addicts in the area are now taking part in their MAT program. Through MAT, they are regularly prescribed Suboxone, a medication that helps lessen their cravings for heroin or fentanyl. Suboxone is less likely to be abused and once the right dose is found for a patient, there is no need to increase that dose because people don't develop a tolerance for it as they can with other drug treatments.
One of Racicot's biggest concerns is pregnant women who are addicted and giving birth to addicted babies but he told Shaheen he sees hope there, too.
"We had 18-percent of our moms addicted for a while, but we've knocked that down to under 10-percent now and haven't had any babies not go home with mom because of addiction," said Racicot.
Many moms, he said, get caught in difficult situations. The fathers are often in jail or out of their lives, leaving them struggling to not only raise their children, but to feed them and keep a roof over their heads, leading to depression. After childbirth women can also experience postpartum depression, which can lead to addictive behaviors.
"Those are people we have to see regularly- they're always at risk," he said. "You just have to wrap your arms around them and not let go."
Corey Gately is the hospital's Clinical Program Director for Recovery and said in the past they had seen a lot of moms through their pregnancy when they realized they have to be healthy for the sake of their unborn child. That determination tended to fade once the baby was born but now, through MAT, they are supported and encouraged to stay clear of opioids.
She explained that people who take part in the clinic are also required to meet with outside counselors to work through their addiction and personal struggles.
"This has been a really positive thing. The moms are still with us and we love seeing their babies," Gately said.
Daisy Pierce, the executive director for Navigating Recovery, said her organization works closely with the hospital, meeting with patients as they are brought into the emergency room after an overdose, and continuing to counsel them as they go through treatment.
"The recovery program and the drug courts we have now really help," she told Shaheen.
Shaheen was pleased by the progress and asked if the Medicaid Expansion money she fought for has been of assistance. Racicot said if not for that financial backing, their clinic would be seeing eight patients instead of the 300 currently enrolled.
"When we started out, we could only see up to 30 people, but the legislation has helped that expand," he said. "Everyone who is started on suboxone in the ER can now be seen in the program the very next day."
The new problem they are seeing in the ER however is people who are now using both opioids and methamphetamine. Cheap and easy to make in large batches, he and Gately explained suboxone helps with opioid addiction but not methamphetamine. Research is being conducted with a few other prescription medications though that may soon assist them in battling methamphetamine addiction, too.
Marge Kerns, Vice President of Clinical Services for LRGHealthcare, explained that Pierce and Gately are also working with staff members to alleviate the stigmas often associated with substance abuse. Part of that process was to combine the MAT clinic with the Occupational Health Clinic so no one knows why anyone is there; people aren't singled out as being an addict.
Racicot told Shaheen it's all working.
"When we see someone now in the second week of recovery, it's like they're a different person. They've washed their hair and start to care about themselves again. It's night and day," he said.
Rounding out the discussion, Pierce told the senator that Navigating Recovery has just received a Community Block Development Grant for $350,000. With that money, they will be able to move to a new, much larger location across from the Belknap County Courthouse.
Sen. Shaheen said she was quite pleased with all the good news and thanked the team for all they have done to get people back on track for a healthy and productive lifestyle. Finally, before leaving, Racicot arranged for her to meet privately with one of his clinic patients who had agreed to tell the senator his side of the opioid crisis and how Medication-Assisted Treatment is helping him.