Opioid addiction treatment available in early April

Future home of the Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) clinic, located west of Ignacio – the clinic will combine counselling by the Behavioral Health providers and treatment with medication by the medical providers.
Robert L. Ortiz | SU Drum

Starting Tuesday, April 6, a culturally tailored treatment program for opioid addiction will be available through the Indian Health Service at the Mesa Building. This clinic will combine counselling by the Behavioral Health providers and treatment with medication by the medical providers. Using medication to help with recovery is called Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), which has been proven to save lives from overdoses and help people get over their addiction to get back to normal life. The main medication used will be buprenorphine. 

Given the national opioid epidemic, which has only worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, Tribal Health Director Anita Brock and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Richard Keller have made this program a priority. “If you get broken, it’s possible to put yourself back together. I’m here to tell you that if you get lost, it’s possible that a light will come dancing on the horizon to lead you home,” Brock said. “MAT is part of a program that can help you do just that. I believe in recovery, and as a role model I have the responsibility to let young people know that you can make a mistake and come back from it.” 

The clinic will incorporate harm reduction principles, such as distributing naloxone, a medication that can be used in an emergency to reverse an opioid overdose. Patients will also be offered HIV and Hepatitis C testing and referrals to services for social needs. Dr. Keller has had discussions with the Southern Ute Legal Department on how we can help people who have encountered legal problems because of their addiction. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association, “Across the criminal justice system, MAT has been found to reduce criminal activity, arrests, as well as probation revocations and re-incarcerations.”  

A future direction that is being explored is to expand pain management services, since painphysical or emotional, is often what causes people to turn to opioids in the first place. 

The MAT clinic can be seen as part of the larger overall approach to substance use in the community. The Southern Ute Tribe has been the recipient of the Native Connections grant, and through this funding they have formed the Southern Ute Prevention Coalition. Dr. Keller, Anita Brock, and I have participated in some initial meetings with the Coalition and intend to continue to coordinate with them. We aspire to make the clinic as culturally appropriate as possible.   

The initial operating hours will be from 9 a.m. – noon on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Please call 970563-5700 to schedule an appointment. 

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