Community Medical Services (CMS), which opened two new opioid treatment programs (OTPs) in Wisconsin and Arizona recently, is the first program in the country to open “Opioid Treatment on Demand” centers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Reaching out to harm reduction agencies is a key focus of CMS’ work, making sure clients know that treatment is available.
“There is a consensus in the healthcare space that we have lost significant ground in the fight against the opioid crisis as any healthcare system is not equipped to fight two wars on two separate fronts,” CMS CEO Nick Stavros said. “Now, more importantly than ever before, we must step up the fight against the drug epidemic that has ravaged our country for decades. And that means expanding access to treatment to those who are suffering from addictions to opioids and other illicit substances.”
The new clinic in Arizona, in Phoenix, will have a full-time staff of nurses, medical providers, and counselors around the clock. In addition, the clinic will conduct outreach to local hospitals, harm reduction agencies, justice system and correctional health entities, and crisis system partners to help navigate people into treatment.
“We understand that when those suffering from an opioid use disorder make the decision to seek treatment, time is of the essence,” Stavros said. “They might change their mind within a matter of hours, so it is absolutely imperative that we give them access to treatment at any given time. We are proud to participate in this opportunity to give new treatment options to people who may badly need it.”
CMS now has 44 clinics, with an additional 5 scheduled to open throughout the country.
“Emergency Departments are expending high costs as a result of the lack of treatment options during off-peak hours,” said CMS’ Director of Medical Operations Jenn Mason. “This center will hopefully offset many of these costs to EDs and will ultimately help save the Wisconsin health care system from unnecessary expenditures.”
CMS also has closely collaborated with Arizona’s health care leadership to address the need for a centrally located 24-hour multi-approach facility.
“At our Phoenix location, no matter the time, no matter the day, we will be here to guide individuals through the process and remove reduce barriers to treatment,” Jesus Godinez, the clinic’s manager, said. “Every client will be afforded the same opportunities to address their opioid use, by using modalities best suited for the client. Medical providers, counselors, case managers, and peer support specialists will work one-on-one with clients to ensure that their individualized treatments needs are met. As we continue to break through the stigma of addiction, we offer a safe place for anyone looking to start their recovery journey with us; in recovery there is hope, and hope is a wonderful thing.”
CDC data shows that more than 450,000 Americans died from an opioid overdose between 1999-2018 and recently released data shows that the epidemic began to spike in 20193. Additionally, data from the American Medical Association suggests that the opioid epidemic has been substantially exacerbated by COVID-194.
“The last few months have been disheartening as our country has been struggling to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic which to date, has killed more than 228 thousand Americans,” Dr. Robert Sherrick, Chief Medical Officer for CMS, said. “However, we must not forget the co-occurring opioid epidemic which has ravished our country and doesn’t seem to have an end in sight.”
“When we initially enter a new city or state, the harm reduction groups on the ground are usually some of our first contacts as they understand the current landscape better than almost any other stakeholders,” Nick Stavros, CMS CEO, told AT Forum. “However, we are in a position to be able to build relationships with local harm reduction groups because we have a pretty strong harm reductionist bent compared to a lot of other OTP systems.” And he notes that there is a “ big risk” to harm reduction in the healthcare field, because “it means that we take patients that are in some pretty rough places in their lives,” he said. These patients “might not have succeeded in other programs,” he said. “We work tenaciously to get them the support they need.”
Stavros thinks having the harm reduction attitude is essential, but takes work. “Having a harm reductionist focus as a treatment provider really takes an entire culture dedicated to treating addiction from a place of compassion, and working hard to match the appropriate resources and treatment to each patient’s respective situation.”