SIERRA VISTA — Residents struggling with an opioid addiction no longer have to travel to Tucson or Phoenix to receive treatment.
Community Partners Integrated Healthcare, a nonprofit dedicated to providing healthcare to people across central and southern Arizona, opened the first medication assisted treatment services clinic in Sierra Vista in early May located at 2039 and 2273 E. Wilcox Drive, which includes Suboxone treatment for eligible patients.
It’s a move that could help fight the national opioid epidemic on a local level, said Community Partners President and Chief Executive Officer Vanessa Seaney. As the only Suboxone provider in the area, patients who want to curb their addiction to prescription or illicit drugs can visit the clinic for help.
Eligible Medicaid patients can receive treatment as well as those on some commercial insurance providers and the clinic is open to sliding-scale and self-pay options, Seaney said.
“Because there is a significant need in our rural communities we decided that we wanted to focus on providing medication-assisted treatment services specific for Suboxone and Vivitrol in Sierra Vista,” Seaney said. “We are already serving eight members there. So, we are finding that it’s something that’s needed and the community is really responding to it.”
Since the opioid epidemic became a national health emergency in 2016, Seaney said adding a treatment clinic in Sierra Vista seemed liked a natural step to address the problem on the local level. Suboxone is a prescription medication that contains naloxone, a opioid receptor-block drug, and buprenorphine, a medication used to treat opioid addiction and pain.
Together the two drugs that comprise the pharmaceutical drug Suboxone help prevent withdrawal symptoms and promote addiction recovery.
The drug works in three phases: induction, maintenance and medical taper, according to suboxone.com, and comes in a dissolvable film. Through each phase, patients should slowly recover from their addiction to opioids and discontinue treatment.
Seaney said Community Partners opened the clinic because of overwhelming support from local healthcare providers, community members and law enforcement.
Dr. Leonard Ditmanson, chief medical officer with Community Partners and internal medicine physician, said clinics like the one that just opened on Wilcox Drive are especially important in areas like Cochise County.
As a physician who sees in patients at similar clinics in Tucson, Ditmanson sees the need for medication-assisted treatment clinics in Sierra Vista firsthand.
“Rural America is unquestionably the epicenter of where this epidemic is playing out because there is so little treatment,” he said. “We just see so many individuals that come from rural communities like Safford and Sierra Vista more and more now.”
To Ditmanson, there’s no hiding from the national opioid epidemic and the best thing to do is help people gain access to the resources they need.
“This epidemic is bigger than the law enforcement community, it’s bigger than the faith community — it’s going to take us all coming together as a community,” he said. “What we need to do is look at this as a community-wide issue and see what we can all bring to the table.”
That means tackling the stigma associated with addiction and understanding how to help.
“We don’t stigmatize people with diabetes or cancer,” Ditmanson said. “We need to help and support people who have this addiction.”
For more information about the clinic and its services, call (520) 226-9002 or (520) 226-0560.