Addiction treatment | St. Louis Public Radio

Addiction treatment

Dan Ludwig, a math teacher at the soon-to-open Great Circle Academy, prepares his classroom on Aug. 26, 2017. The so-called "recovery school" will educate teens who recently completed substance abuse treatment.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Teens who struggle with drug and alcohol abuse face many temptations after complete treatment. A new private high school opening soon in suburban St. Louis will offer them an educational environment free of some of those potential triggers.

Great Circle, a behavioral health provider that operates private schools in Missouri for children with learning or developmental challenges, plans to enroll up to 20 students at a so-called “recovery school” on its campus in Webster Groves.

On a cold morning last winter, Christopher Hinds says he woke up early, sick from withdrawal. He called a friend and they trekked across a highway, walking for more than two miles through the snow on a street without sidewalks to buy heroin. 

“You don’t think about nothing but getting it when you’re sick like that,” he says. 

Mike Morrison talks with two staff members at Bridgeway's detox center in St. Louis.
File photo | Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri plans to use a new $10 million federal grant to improve access to opioid addiction medication.

A main focus of the grant, announced Wednesday by Republican U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, will be increasing the number of doctors and nurse practitioners licensed to prescribe buprenorphine, a medication that reduces opioid addiction cravings, according to project manager Rachel Winograd.

Sam Werkmeister, 30, sits on his porch in Granite City on March 30, 2017. Werkmeister is recovering from an addiction to opioids, which began with prescription pills.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio.

Sam Werkmeister, a father of two, nearly died six times last year.

He started taking pain pills to get through shifts at a restaurant. That led him to a full-blown addiction to opioids. After a relapse last summer, it took Werkmeister six months to gather the courage to go back into treatment. 

“It’s called carfentanil, and it’s really cheap,” he said, as he sat on a worn couch in the Granite City group home he shares with a half dozen other men. “It destroyed my life.”

In the study he led, Washington University researcher Darrell Hudson found the men in his focus groups were more than willing to discuss their experiences with racism and issues related to mental health.
Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

A central Illinois center for addiction treatment will stay open for now, despite payment delays during the state’s ongoing budget crisis. After two years without a permanent budget, the state is facing a backlog of $12.6 billion in unpaid bills to state employees, contractors and agencies.

An induction room at SSM Health's new WISH Center.
Provided | Sarah Savat, SSM Health

SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond Heights has a new facility dedicated to caring for pregnant women addicted to heroin and other opioids.

The Women and Infants Substance Help, or WISH Center started two years ago as a half-day weekly clinic. But after referrals and word of mouth built up a three-week waiting list, SSM Health decided to expand.

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

In U.S. medical schools, a total of nine hours is required in pain management training for doctors. That’s 0.3% of total time in medical school and, to compare, veterinarian schools spend more than 500x more time spent learning to treat pain in animals.

That’s according to a study conducted by Johns Hopkins in 2011 and cited by Dr. Michael Bottros, the director of acute pain service at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

Probuphine works by implanting four bars like this under the skin of the upper arm. The bars release a dose of the opioid addiction medicine buprenorphine for six months.
Braeburn Pharmaceuticals | provided

Updated May 27 with FDA decision and new pricing details — The Food and Drug Administration approved Thursday the buprenorphine implant Probuphine for use treating addictions to prescription painkillers and heroin.

The implant received a lot of attention in the addiction medicine field in anticipation of its approval as a potential game changer in the fight against opioid addiction. It could also have a $5,000 plus price tag every six months.

Mike Morrison talks with two staff members at Bridgeway's detox center in St. Louis.
File photo | Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

A proposed federal policy intended to improve access to opioid addiction treatment may not have much of an impact in St. Louis.

The rule change would allow doctors to prescribe a medication that reduces withdrawal and cravings to twice as many patients.

But two of the largest treatment providers in St. Louis say their doctors aren’t in danger of exceeding the current 100 patient-limit for buprenorphine, a drug often trademarked as Suboxone.

An illustration of what it feels like to experience schizophrenia.
Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri could be one of the first states in the nation to test a new mental health care program designed to expand access to treatment.

The pilot program was created by the Excellence in Mental Health Care Act, co-sponsored by U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo) and signed into law in 2014 as part of a broader Medicare reform measure. It sets quality standards for community mental health centers in participating states and more fully funds treatment for Medicaid patients.