It’s all too easy for people addicted to drugs to fall through the cracks in rural communities.

There aren’t many good resources to help them address their specific problems. Maintaining bad habits can prove too tempting for people who feel incredibly isolated.

Credo Community Center for the Treatment of Addictions in Watertown received some grant money that may be more effective in getting necessary help to people who need it. The agency will purchase a vehicle to use as a mobile medication unit.

The vehicle will provide medication-assisted treatment to individuals addicted to opioids. Credo will get $200,000 in grant funding from the state Office of Addiction Services and Supports to buy the vehicle and $31,200 from the North Country Initiative to hire a licensed practical nurse for the mobile unit.

“The unit will provide medication-assisted treatment to people in communities with limited access and mobile screenings, assessments, counseling, injections, toxicology testing, harm reduction training, education and peer services,” according to a story published April 6 by the Watertown Daily Times. “There are only a handful of opioid treatment programs in the north country, and only two that offer medication-assisted treatment, or MAT — Credo in Watertown and Conifer Park’s Plattsburgh Outpatient Clinic, leaving communities underserved in between, [said Tracy Leonard, Credo’s director of operations]. Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties are sparsely populated and together are geographically large. In rural communities, lack of access to care is compounded by other factors, including need among people who are incarcerated.

“The mobile unit will be an RV or similar vehicle to allow for medical and clinical space to dose methadone. Methadone is a long-acting opioid used to treat chronic pain and dependence. In liquid, powder or tablet form, methadone reduces craving and withdrawal symptoms,” the article reported. “Credo’s budget submitted to OASAS included a staff of three, including one person for security. The NCI funding will only cover a portion of a nurse salary, leaving costs for a clinician and the security officer. According to Ms. Leonard, Credo must follow vehicle specifications set by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The vehicle will likely need to be customized to meet regulations. The mobile unit represents an on-the-road approach to the services Credo already provides at its West Main Street site, Ms. Leonard said.”

John C. Wilson, Credo’s executive director, explained the organization’s goal with the mobile medication unit.

“It’ll be a financial model that meets the needs of the populations around the counties,” he said in the article. “Being mobile, it gets to places that people would not necessarily be willing to travel or to be able to get transportation. We would take that closer to where they were located, where they’re living.

“The distance between [opioid treatment programs] clinics and the rural nature of our area lends it to bringing important medications to people [who] would not necessarily get them,” Wilson added. “We’ve had some conversations here of how we could also assist the jails and the prison populations using it as well. It’s a bit up in the air as to what makes the most sense, but we’ll figure it out.”

This is an excellent plan being put forth by a social service agency with a history of effectively treating its clients. We wish all those at Credo well with this endeavor. Their success will have a positive effect in Northern New York, so we should all support the group in its efforts.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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