Addiction treatment | St. Louis Public Radio

Addiction treatment

Syringe exchange programs have been used to reduce rates of HIV and other infectious diseases among drug users who share needles. The St. Louis Board of Aldermen next week could consider allowing addiction treatment providers to run such a program.11/8/19
File photo | Zachariah Hughes | Alaska Public Media

Addiction treatment providers in St. Louis could soon begin distributing clean syringes to intravenous drug users under a program overseen by the city’s health department. 

Alderwoman Cara Spencer, D-20th Ward, introduced a bill supporting the proposal on Friday. The board sent the bill to the Health and Human Services Committee, which could consider it next week. 

Syringe services programs, often described as needle exchanges, have proven track records of reducing the rates of infectious diseases such as HIV among drug users who share needles.

St. Louis County jail
File photo

The Buzz Westfall Justice Center in Clayton is sending twice as many inmates to the hospital for medical emergencies as it did in previous years, according to health officials. 

That’s likely because more inmates are coming into jail with drug addictions, said Dr. Emily Doucette, acting co-director of the St. Louis County Department of Public Health. Four in 10 inmates have withdrawal symptoms at their initial booking, said Doucette, whose department provides health care at the jail. 

Additionally, they increasingly have multiple substances, such as alcohol, tranquilizers and opioids, in their system, she said.

Opioid-related overdoses killed an estimated 1,635 Missourians in 2018, according to preliminary numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

Doctoral students in psychology at the University of Missouri will be able to learn how to better treat and prevent addiction thanks to a $1.2 million grant from the federal government.

The funds from the Department of Health and Human Services will pay for 21 new psychology internships in areas that lack health services, more than doubling the department’s current positions.

“This will enable us to give them a little something extra,” said Laura Schopp, chair of the university’s health psychology department. “Any psychologist who is dealing with these chronic health conditions is going to come up against substance use disorders and, particularly, opioid use disorders.”

A sign outside the Missouri Network for Opiate Reform and Recovery advertises Narcan, a medication that can reverse an opioid overdose.
File photo |Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Since 2016, Missouri has received more than $65 million in federal grants to provide treatment and recovery services to people addicted to opioids.

The money has provided thousands of people with addiction medication, counseling and residential services. But the latest grant cycle expires in September 2020, and addiction treatment providers are uncertain if Congress will approve funding after that. With Missouri’s opioid-related death toll rising each year, advocates say funding for medical treatment is more important than ever.

A sign outside the Missouri Network for Opiate Reform and Recovery advertises Narcan, a medication that can reverse an opioid overdose.
File photo |Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 3:45 p.m., Sept. 20, with comments from Surgeon General Jerome Adams — A nationwide campaign is needed to combat the opioid abuse epidemic that has damaged many families and communities, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Thursday.

Adams and officials from the U.S. Health and Human Services department visited the St. Louis region to discuss the challenges communities face in dealing with opioid addiction. To address the crisis, Health and Human Services officials announced this week that the federal government will give states $1 billion to fight opioid addiction, including $44 million to Illinois and $29 million to Missouri.

St. Louis County jail
File photo

St. Louis County will use federal grant money to offer medication-assisted treatment to some county jail inmates with opioid addictions.

The county will use $2 million, two-year grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to phase in treatment for inmates in Clayton’s Buzz Westfall Justice Center.

When Cody Goodwin, of Independence, Missouri, was 24, he had already been hooked on opioids, including heroin, for years. His sister decided jail was the only way he could be cut off from drugs, so she reported him to the police.

New Season spokesman Todd Eury stands outside the planned clinic in St. Charles.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio.

A locked storefront for an opioid treatment clinic in a St. Charles strip mall sits between a bar and a meeting space for Alcoholics Anonymous. A sign outside reads “New Season.” But the project is on hold, after objections from local residents. 

“We’re not against any of the opioid clinics, we’re against the location,” said Jim Meinhardt, the sales manager of a nearby computer store. “Usually these clinics are not right next to a neighborhood or a day care. Usually there’s some thought.”

When he heard about the plans, Meinhardt started gathering signatures for a petition asking the clinic, which would serve 350 patients, to choose another location.

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.

When An Overdose Becomes A Gateway To Recovery

Aug 30, 2017

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.”

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.

Missouri looks to improve access to mental health care

Feb 13, 2016
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.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 6, 2013 - As he and his staff prepared for the opening of a new alcohol and drug treatment center in St. Louis last week, Percy Menzies talked about the challenge of getting society to embrace newer approaches to addressing addictions.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 12, 2012 - When Christian Hospital opened its drug treatment center about eight years ago, it probably didn’t expect some of the addiction trends that have since taken shape among young people in the St. Louis area. Experts say growing abuse of pain pills among young people has led many of them to graduate to heroin and that is keeping both hospital and free-standing treatment centers busy.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 8, 2012 - I’ll take your money. / I’ll take your freedom. / I’ll take your family. / I’ll take your life. / My name is … Heroin

This chilling warning, printed on a colorful placard at an anti-drug rally in September at the Gateway Arch, sums up the impact of heroin abuse in the St. Louis area.

Homeless vets find refuge

Nov 11, 2011

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 11, 2011 - Veterans have suffered in the poor economy like everyone else, losing their homes to foreclosure, getting laid off, getting sick and depressed. At the last official count on a given night in January, 76,329 veterans were homeless in the United States, up from 75,609 the same time last year.