Heroin addicts face barriers to treatment

Readily available and relatively cheap, a hit of heroin in the Mid-Ohio Valley is fairly accessible. Scoring treatment, on the other hand, is far from easy.

With no local in-patient care options and counseling and treatment often being costly and outside of the scope of insurance providers, a climbing number of addicts are finding themselves without the tools they need to get clean.

At last count in January, the 10 mental health and addiction counselors at L&P Services in Marietta were helping 437 drug and alcohol clients.

Though not all or even a majority of those clients are heroin addicts, there are some, said Jessica Fox, drug and alcohol clinical supervisor at L&P.

“We offer individual counseling, group counseling, case management services, psychiatrists and nurse practitioners. We help with housing, finding jobs, working with our community agencies like Job and Family Services,” explained Fox of some of the resources available there.

But what L&P does not provide, and what Fox admits is seriously lacking for struggling heroin addicts, is any sort of local in-patient care.

“I believe, as a professional, that (in-patient care) is very important,” she said. “It’s hard for them to come here and have their counseling and then be back in that environment with other users again. In-patient gets them out of that environment completely.”

In-patient programs appear to be dwindling, she added. Some of the in-patient facilities L&P previously recommend to clients have closed or gotten more restrictive with who they accept in recent years, she said.

“There are places I believe in Columbus. There are other places that are kind of scattered throughout the state. Most of them you’re paying out of pocket for and they cost thousands of dollars. And they don’t usually accept insurance …or Medicaid,” added Fox.

An in-patient facility also takes some of the fear out of what is a painful and sickening detoxification process, noted Adam, a recovering local addict who chose to retain anonymity by not using his last name.

“The hardest issue I faced…I wanted to get off of heroin. I really did. But I was scared of the detox, of the complete incapacitation that going through detox from heroin gives you,” he recalled.

Marietta Memorial Hospital used to have a detoxification facility, but no longer does, he noted.

And while medication-such as Suboxone and methadone offered at local clinics-can alleviate some of the symptoms, they create their own set of problems.

Many people looking to such medicines for help with detox end up addicted to them for years, noted Adam.

“You can’t go through your life as an active drug addict and think the answer is going to be in a methadone tablet or a Suboxone tablet,” said Adam, now seven years clean.

That is not to say, those medications have not been used with success by some, he added.

SelfRefind, a local Suboxone clinic which opened in August, offers treatment at a monthly fee of $350 if paid in a lump sum or two $200 payments if split.

Of course, that is much cheaper than a heroin habit, said Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks.

A single unit dose which costs between $5 to $7 in Columbus, undergoes a 500 percent inflation by the time it reaches Marietta, said Mincks. Even a relatively small habit is easily a $100-a-day addiction, he added.

But the cost of that addiction is really skewed because addicts are rarely spending hundreds of dollars of earned wages on drugs.

“To get that money, people have to steal. They’ll take a thousand dollar item and take it into a pawn shop and they might only get $100 out of it, but they don’t care. That’ll buy heroin,” Mincks said.