Supporters of addiction treatment facility break ground in Edmond
Oklahoma City — EDMOND — Seeking treatment for addiction in Oklahoma often means spending months on the state's waiting list, traveling a time zone away or going to an off-putting clinic some people would shy away from.
Supporters of Arcadia Trails, a new addiction treatment center to be built in Edmond, know that reality all too well.
Kelly Dyer Fry, editor of The Oklahoman, and Oklahoma lawyer Reggie Whitten had both watched a child struggle with addiction. Whitten's son, Brandon Whitten, died at age 25 after a motorcycle he was driving while intoxicated struck a brick mailbox in 2002. Fry's older son struggled with addiction to pills. He currently is in recovery, but had to go through multiple treatment programs, including one that took him to Florida.
“I felt like Oklahoma was letting me down, and that's not the kind of people we are,” Fry said.
Six years ago, they met with Terri White, commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, and Dr. Murali Krishna, co-founder of the James L. Hall Center for Mind Body and Spirit at Integris, to see how they might improve care for people with addictions.
The four, and other supporters, met Thursday morning on the campus of Integris Edmond for a groundbreaking ceremony. If all goes according to plan, the facility will open in spring 2019.
The program will be designed around a 90-day stay, with one year of follow-up care. The facility will have 40 beds for adults whose primary diagnosis is a substance use disorder.
Integris will run staffing and operations.
Putting an addiction treatment facility on the same campus as a hospital sends a message that it's just another type of medical problem, said Avilla Williams, president of Integris Health Edmond.
“We're really trying to change the worldview of addiction,” she said.
About $23 million has been raised from foundations and individual Oklahomans to build a “world-class” treatment facility, Fry said, and the group is looking to raise $12 million more for community education and patient scholarships.
A 90-day stay will cost $56,000.
“It's been very moving to see all the support and to see Oklahomans step up like we knew they would,” she said. “Too many Oklahomans are dying from this disease.”
Long line for beds
It isn't clear how many people in Oklahoma currently aren't able to get residential substance use treatment, because there is no central database. State-funded beds for indigent patients always have a long waiting line, however.
Jeff Dismukes, spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, estimated about 500 people are waiting for residential substance use treatment in Oklahoma any given day. The actual number of people who are trying to get into treatment is almost certainly higher, because the state list doesn't include people who have insurance or are able to pay for treatment in private facilities, he said. Still, it's clear that demand exceeds supply.
“The number and type of beds available aren't anywhere near the number needed,” he said.
Patients may pay a significant amount out of pocket for addiction treatment. But Fry said navigators at Arcadia Trails will help patients and their families to work with their insurance companies or explore medical loans.
Inpatient addiction treatment facilities in Oklahoma report difficulty getting insurers to cover stays longer than 30 days. Offering shorter stays isn't a good option because the brain needs at least 45 days to stabilize after a person stops using substances, Williams said. Only then are patients ready to start absorbing information about their health, she said.
“The brain needs time to recover,” she said.
Many people still believe addiction results from moral weakness, Krishna said. Some people have a genetic predisposition to addiction, and substances can more easily hijack their brains' reward system until they can't feel normal without the drug, he said.
“They feel like a square peg in a round hole,” he said.
Individualized treatment plans
Each patient at Arcadia Trails will undergo an assessment to help develop a treatment plan, Williams said. The plan can include individual, group and family therapies; medications, if needed; and life skills to help the person cope after going home. It also needs to take into account whether the person has a mental illness or a history of trauma, she said.
“It's not a cookie-cutter approach to how we treat patients,” she said.
The program includes five phases, beginning with evaluation, detox and education about the biological basis of addiction, Krishna said. The program then progresses through assessing one's strengths and challenges, learning coping and relationship skills, incorporating spirituality into life and planning ways to stay sober after discharge.
Treating addiction, mental illness and trauma simultaneously, for an extended period and in a “healing” environment, will increase patients' odds of success, Krishna said.
“If you just detox them and send them home, they don't have the skills to cope with the world,” he said.
Williams said Integris expects initially to hire about 25 people, including physicians, nurses, psychologists, therapists and support staff. The number of employees will grow along with the number of patients, she said.
The facility also will include a conference center, which community groups could use for meetings or special events, Williams said. Staff also will offer educational sessions aimed at treatment providers or the general community, she said.
White, ODMHSAS commissioner, said the facility already is educating the community. Placing it in a prominent place in an affluent city like Edmond, rather than “hiding it in an abandoned strip mall,” shows that all communities need to take addiction treatment seriously and helps dispel the stigma surrounding it, she said.
“This is going to serve not only this community, but the entire state of Oklahoma,” she said.
By the numbers
Admissions for state-funded drug treatment in fiscal year 2016, by drug of choice:
• Methamphetamine: 4,715
• Alcohol: 4,459
• Marijuana: 3,115
• Opiates: 1,996
• Heroin: 722
• Amphetamines: 494
• Cocaine: 310
• Benzodiazepines: 189
• PCP: 72
• Other: 243
Source: Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
Resources for families
• For help with a mental health or addiction crisis, call the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Reach Out hotline, 800-522-9054.
• For resources during normal business hours, call the Mental Health Association of Oklahoma’s community referral line, 405-943-3700, or the National Alliance on Mental Illness help line, 800-583-1264.
• For discussions and support, visit the Oklahoma’s Addiction and Mental Health Community page on Facebook.
How to help
To contribute to Arcadia Trails, visit http://integrisgiving.org/the-story.