Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Methadone clinic fits well in health network

CITY OF NEWBURGH — Once set to close, a Newburgh methadone clinic has become the type of place the state wants to see across New York's health-care system.

What makes it interesting isn't so much the clinic itself but its place in a larger network of doctors, dentists, mental health workers and therapists.

The Greater Hudson Valley Family Health Center took over the clinic in January after St. Luke's Cornwall Hospital announced plans to shut it down. The nonprofit also had run the Center for Recovery since 2006. Adding the methadone clinic meant it could fill a piece missing in its plan to treat people through their entire range of health needs.

It's a concept of treating the whole person that Karen Carpenter-Palumbo said has become a priority in New York. Carpenter-Palumbo is the commissioner of the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.

Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer and Gov. David Paterson mandated that state departments such as Carpenter-Palumbo's begin integrating services into a cohesive system.

That means more networks like the one Greater Hudson Valley now operates at 83 Commercial Place. About 70 service providers, government employees and politicians gathered there yesterday to celebrate its opening.

Chris Loscher, director of the Center of Recovery, said the methadone clinic opened in January with 204 patients and now has about 240. It's licensed for 300. Statewide, about 1 in 7 New Yorkers deals with some sort of addiction.

Methadone is used to help break a dependency on opiates. That used to be almost exclusively heroin addiction, Loscher said, but increasingly includes the patient who gets hooked on prescription pain killers after surgery.

Patients bring with them a variety of medical concerns along with the addiction, Loscher said. A person in the middle of a daily heroin habit might not care about regular dental visits but, as they begin to recover, things like healthy teeth and jobs start to seem more important, Loscher said.

Greater Hudson Valley tries to provide all those services within its network.

That's important, Carpenter-Palumbo said, because too many patients are asked to bounce from one service to another in a disjointed system.

"What happens then is, we lose the person," she said.


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