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The Will County Health Department’s Community Health Center (CHC) has received a grant of $285,750 from the Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA). This will expand the CHC’s ability to provide treatment for opioid use disorder, with the addition of Suboxone to their medication-assisted treatment options.

One year ago, the CHC received a $175,000 grant to add Vivitrol (which is used for both opioid and alcohol use disorders) to their medication-assisted treatment options. CHC Chief Executive Officer Mary Maragos says the current presidential administration’s commitment to fighting the opioid crisis makes it very hopeful that more help would be coming. “They made this a priority, and the federal department of Health and Human Services made a commitment this year to making $350 million available to community health centers nationwide in order to fight the opioid crisis. It’s wonderful that we were included.

“We’ll be able to hire a new Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, one Behavioral Health nurse, and one medical assistant,” Maragos continued. “Meanwhile, our staff is receiving certification for Suboxone treatment, which can be done online. One nurse practitioner has completed the training, and three doctors are working on it right now. One of them is an OB-GYN, which is very important, because Suboxone is a drug that can be taken by most pregnant women who are battling opioid addiction.”

Dr. Kathleen Burke, Will County Director of Substance Use Initiatives, says the ongoing battle against the opioid crisis needs every advantage possible. “I am really excited about the grant. Right now there are no providers in Will County that are accepting patients with Medicaid or no insurance who want to use Suboxone for treatment. This is a huge step forward in providing access to medication-assisted treatment to all Will County residents struggling with an opioid use disorder. Medication-assisted treatment that includes ongoing behavioral therapy is the most effective treatment for long term recovery.”

The Will County Health Department’s Community Health Center (CHC) has received a grant to provide Suboxone Treatment for those battling Opioid addiction.

Maragos agreed with Burke on how important this is for all Will County residents. She says that while the county has 28 substance abuse treatment providers, only four accept the uninsured, Medicaid, or Medicare, and only three offer a sliding fee scale. And now, in addition to offering all of those, the CHC will indeed become the first Suboxone treatment provider in Will County for patients with Medicaid.

Another positive about this grant is helping those who may have just completed the Will County Drug Court Program. The program’s Problem Solving Court Coordinator, Julie McCabe Sterr, says many participants in this second chance program are already on medication-assisted therapies that they may need to continue once they complete the Will County Drug Court requirements. “It will be awesome having the CHC as a source for Problem Solving Court participants and graduates to receive Suboxone should they still need it.”

Maragos added that with the CHC’s ability to offer qualifying patients the 340b Prescription Club Program, along with access to additional counseling, this grant for Suboxone treatment is simply the next big step. She says it continues to take a team effort in the medical community to guard against the over-prescribing of pain medications that can sometimes lead to opioid or alcohol usage as a dangerous substitute.

“I certainly think progress has been made when it comes to doctors’ prescribing habits,” said Maragos. “Years ago, drug companies could send a new representative to doctors’ offices pretty much every day; offering free samples, free supplies, or lunches as a bonus. But new regulations have come into play. Awareness is getting better.”

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