Grant expands addiction treatment in Rock County

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Frank Schultz
Thursday, August 17, 2017

JANESVILLE -- More people addicted to heroin or opioids will be able to get treatment in Rock County because of a $124,000 grant.

The Rock County Human Services Department will work with Janesville Counseling Center to provide the services that will include the medications Vivitrol or Suboxone, said the department's Brenda Endtoff.

Endtoff spoke to the county's Criminal Justice Coordinating Council at its monthly meeting at the courthouse.

The money will pay the salaries of a full-time alcohol/drug therapist/case manager and a part-time nurse, plus $29,900 for medications, Endtoff said.

Endtoff said treatment waiting lists have been as long as 50 people, but at the moment, they have dwindled to zero. She expects it will pick up with the cold weather.

Local police and others trying to combat the epidemic have said repeatedly that lack of treatment options is one of their biggest problems.

An addict who decides he wants treatment wants it now, they say. Those forced to wait often return to drugs.

The grant will pay for 24 people to be helped at any given time from September through April. Many more people will be served because they won't stay in the program the entire time, Endtoff said.

Officials at the meeting said the attention state and federal lawmakers recently have given to the epidemic made them optimistic more funding would become available to extend the program after April.

Elizabeth Pohlman McQuillen, criminal justice planner/analyst for the county, said the goal is to stabilize the clients so they can be referred to community treatment providers, but there's a lack of local doctors who will prescribe the medications.

Mercyhealth has hired a new doctor who will prescribe Suboxone, Endtoff said, and the county is hoping to get more local doctors involved.

Endtoff said the money for medications probably would not last, so efforts will be made to charge the clients' health insurance whenever possible.

One dose of Vivitrol, which lasts a month, costs $1,300, she said. Suboxone costs much less.

Endtoff said the services would operate on a “harm reduction” model, not an absolute sobriety model, so if clients are using marijuana, for example, they would still get their medication.

The goal is to keep them alive.

“If they're dead, we can't do anything for them,” she said.

“Our overall goals are to reduce overdose deaths, to help individuals reduce drug use and remain engaged in treatment and to improve quality of life for individuals and families in our community,” the department said in a statement distributed at the meeting.

The statement notes Rock County recorded 33 opioid overdose deaths last year “and is on track to exceed that number in 2017.”

Council member Lt. Kristen Devitt of the Beloit police said one part of Beloit saw “quite a few” overdoses, so police will focus attention on that area.

Fentanyl, the powerful synthetic drug that is so often added to heroin these days, was thought to be the cause, Devitt said.

Janesville Police Chief Dave Moore said his officers are finding the same problem and said police need to develop a safety procedure so they don't succumb to fentanyl, which can be absorbed through the skin.

Last updated: 7:43 pm Thursday, August 17, 2017

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