Medication Assisted Treatment: Fighting the Good Fight Against Opioid Addiction

Written by Michelle Randall, a student of West Hills College Lemoore

Most people don’t set out to become dependent on their medications just to get by day to day.   After injuries, doctors often prescribe opioids as a way to mitigate intense pain.  Sometimes, fear of pain or lessening relief over time, cause prescribed users to up their dosage.  Potentially, even the most well-meaning of people can become addicted to prescribed medications.  What happens when they do?  Where can they turn to get themselves out of a spiral of opioid addiction?

Originally founded in Avenal, the newly named Aria Community Health Center has locations around Kings County dedicated to assist those who face seemingly insurmountable circumstances. Their Medication Assisted Treatment is only one of a handful of programs that are keen on helping those who cannot help themselves when it comes to battling opioid addiction.

What is an opioid?

An opioid describes a broad spectrum of drugs, ranging from prescription pain killers, such as oxycodone, codeine, and morphine, to more illicit street varieties like heroin and opium.

Medication Assisted Treatment

The Aria Community Health Center’s Medication Assisted Treatment— or MAT, as it is known, is a program committed to those who are suffering through opioid addictions. The concept is simple: in an enclosed environment surrounded by faculty and support groups, patients undergoing treatment are put on a plan using suboxone, a prescription medicine in the form of film developed to combat addiction, withdrawals, and if necessary, relapses.    

There are two stages involved with the process: induction and maintenance.  The first is where they begin treatment, (or restart if relapsed), under the supervision of a doctor. After the first dose, in which the patient must be in a moderate state of withdrawal, they work with their doctors to reach a dose of suboxone film that works for them. Stage two occurs when the doctor is sure the patient is no longer experiencing withdrawal symptoms, have minimal to no side effects, and do not have uncontrollable cravings.

The patient can take his or her medication regularly as prescribed as long they comply with all of the elements in the treatment plans-- including the responsibility of handling the medication., staying free from illicit drug use, and seeking counseling and/or psychological support.

While the MAT program does primarily battle opioid addictions through medical treatment, the initiative is also an integrative team approach where patients being served are not just being prescribed another medication, but are also receiving services such as behavioral health counseling, case management, support group services as well as regular appointments with doctors and providers supplied.

“But what if something were to happen during my treatments?”

EdithRios

That’s where members like Edith Rios comes into the picture. Edith is one of the case managers who works alongside the doctors at the Aria Community Health Center. Doubling down in duties that both concern MAT and behavioral health amenities, her job is to work alongside the patients to monitor progress, give referrals, and specifically supply them with services outside of the program that could potentially jeopardize progress in their treatment plan. She helps lessen outside factors so the patients can focus more on recovery, whether it be homelessness, hunger, or even a place for their child to be taken care of.

What’s the success rate?

Recovery time and subsequent patient success is rather difficult to define, since many variables must be factored during the MAT program. That, and it is different for everyone going through the treatment. Where one person could take months, another could take a longer or even shorter period to graduate from the MAT program. However, it is estimated about 75% of individuals who go through the treatment plan fully recover from their addiction with no relapses.

How do I contact them?

Interested parties who would like to look more into the MAT program can contact any of the ACHC locations through the use of their website ariachc.org or by phone at 559-924-7005 EXT 1941.

Sheltering the Homeless, Transforming their Lives

Kings Gospel Mission is an organization focused on providing overnight shelter to men on the street and helping them get over the problems that drag them down. Everyone here wants to see progress, and their kindness and willingness to help is immediately visible. Kings Gospel Mission has two main focuses in mind when it comes to serving the homeless in our community, the first being an overnight shelter for men. Chief Executive Officer Dave Clevenger mentions:

Dave Clevenger - Kings Gospel Mission
“We are open for overnight shelter from 6:00 PM every night until 7:00 AM every morning. The men sleep here on the property every night off the street. We provide a dinner, laundry and shower services, and there is a bible devotion every night after dinner for anyone who is willing to listen. It encourages them to have a conversation with us about who they are, why they’re homeless, and it gives them a chance to get to know us and why we’re doing this for them.”

MORE THAN JUST SHELTER

The second component and primary focus of Kings Gospel Mission is their Life Transformation Program. The program runs for 12 months and aims to explore what is going on in the lives of our homeless men and how to find a path to a flourishing livelihood. The program emphasizes emotional/spiritual healing, life readiness, and vocational preparedness with lessons on the Bible and the Christian worldview, how to manage bills, cook meals, planning out the week, work therapy, job training, and much more. Once the basics are mastered, then the challenge is learning what their natural abilities and preferences are and using that as an advantage to find work that they can enjoy getting up for in the morning.

“We focus on identity, hurts, and hangups, and we see this through a Christian biblical worldview. We believe and follow Jesus Christ because we believe that he can heal any issue, hurt, or hangup so we explore what God has for us and then we focus on fixing those problems.”

OVERCOMING OBSTACLES

The biggest challenges for the programs have been financial. Kings Gospel Mission is completely donor funded and can only exist through the kindness and willingness to give of the community. The good news is that they will accept more than just monetary donations; any gently used goods, used vehicles, property and other things of value are more than welcome. They can even accept a bushel to help fund the mission. The men regularly work hand in hand with staff and volunteers to prepare donated items for yard sales which are held on site. The other challenge they face has been community awareness, meaning that few people are out advocating for homeless men to seek out their assistance.

“The people that are out panhandling, and seeking handouts, we need to be connected with them. Rather than just giving them monetary support, we need to have that communication with them and get them the help we need. If you come across these people, send them our way!”

EARLY SUCCESS

Kings Gospel Mission has only been around in our community for a bit more than a year, but already has 3 graduates from their Life Transformation Program. They are holding down a steady job, living on their own, and have been a major inspiration for the other men still at the shelter.

“We keep in touch, and we aim to provide those connections should they run into problems, and they do come, but here they have people who know them and care about them. And in our overnight shelter, we’ve had many people get to know us and open up about what particular things cause problems for them and knowing that we can connect them to community resource specifically targeting that issue. We can only do that because of that mutual and direct relationship we build here together.”

Emergency child care, is such a thing possible?

Unforeseen circumstance affects us all, but for those with children it can be especially difficult. Providing for a child requires so much time, effort, and patience; what would happen if our situation were to suddenly take a turn for the worst? 

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