Syracuse addiction treatment center to begin offering methadone

The new program opens at Syracuse Behavioral Healthcare on April 10

SYRACUSE (WSYR-TV) - Next month, Syracuse Behavioral Healthcare (SBH) will open a new Opioid Treatment Program, offering methadone to help control cravings for drugs like Heroin.

"I've worked with individuals that are on methadone who work full-time jobs. These are parents, they are raising their kids, they are going to school," says Kevin Howard, who will serve as director of the new program.

Just two years ago, Crouse Hospital offered the only state-approved methadone clinic in the area, serving more than a dozen counties.

In the summer of 2015 the clinic's director, Monika Taylor, said roughly 500 people were on a waiting list for the Crouse Hospital Behavioral Services program and some were expected to wait more than a year.

"We have individuals out there that are dying on our waiting list," Taylor said two years ago.

Facing pressure from a growing number of heroin-related deaths, crime, and emergency room visits, New York State health officials began allowing more programs to offer methadone.

SBH is the latest treatment center to earn that approval in Central New York.

Critics of methadone treatment, which has been used for decades, point out that it's in the same class of drugs as heroin - an opioid.

Patients may stay on methadone for years, raising questions about whether they've truly addressed their addiction, or simply transferred it to another opioid.

Howard argues that relapse rates are so high for heroin addiction, that some patients may be more successful with long-term maintenance through controlled and monitored doses of drugs like methadone. 

"We want to be very careful that we are not pushing patients off before they are ready," Howard says. "If the treatment is working, why should we change it?"

Initially, patients would visit the program six days a week, swallowing their dose in front of staff. The goal is to make sure the drug isn't taken home, sold or abused in some other form.

"You have multiple staff members, from counselors to administrative staff to the nurses, who are going to be able to see these patients daily to establish a baseline," he adds.

If a patient shows progress after 90 days, they may be able to get some take-home doses to cut down on the number of trips to the clinic.

Participants will need an assessment, including a doctor's approval.

The new SBH Opioid Treatment Program opens on April 10.

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