An average of three Virginians died of an opioid overdose every day in 2018 alone, according to data from the Virginia Department of Health.
But a new outpatient opioid treatment program opening in Waynesboro hopes to combat the public health emergency through medication assisted treatment (MAT).
The Mid-Atlantic Recovery Center (MARC) is opening its doors to patients on Friday on Pratts Run in the former UVa Primary Care location. Using medication combined with counseling and peer support, owner Natalie Broadnax said the center “wants to give people the chance to live the best life they can live.”
“There isn’t one single path that’s going to be suitable for every patient. When you first come in and you’re a new patient, you’re going to meet with our doctor for a full physical exam. We’re going to assess your overall health and the doctor determines whether or not your suitable for our program,” Broadnax said.
Patients will begin by coming to MARC daily for medication, combined with counseling four times a month.
Broadnax said she hoped to eliminate barriers to treatment including travel and cost, which led to selecting Waynesboro as the center’s location. There are currently 40 other outpatient treatment centers in Virginia including Verona, Charlottesville and Harrisonburg.
“Putting the clinic location here you avoid having to go over Afton mountain or up I-81,” Broadnax said, adding that MARC is accessible via the bus line as well.
MARC does not charge yearly, admittance or physical exam fees. The only patient fees will be for medication which can be as low as $12 a day, Broadnax said. After 30 days, the center can accept Medicaid and plans to accept private insurance at a later date.
Counseling also is no additional charge to patients. Program director Matt Hahn said as a counselor, “we want to figure out what motivated you to become addicted in the first place. The key is treating those issues.”
Additionally, MARC hopes to reduce the stigma around opioid treatment. Hahn and nurse Karren Simonsen said a common misconception is that people on drugs have nothing better to do. In actuality, it can happen to anybody, they said.
“I’d say maybe up to 75% of our patients are not the heroin users that people imagine. It’s people taking over-the-counter medicines or that we’re legitimately prescribed opioids and can’t get off them now,” Hahn said.
“I think one of the easiest ways to tell if someone themselves has a problem with opioids is if you have trouble existing in your day-to-day-life without it,” Simonsen added. “It’s as simple as calling us. We’ll walk you through it. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. We don’t entertain stigma inside this building.”
The opening has been almost two years in the making for Broadnax who said she’s looking forward to having patients walk through their hallways and improving their quality of life.
“There have been a lot of small moments, but what’s going to do it for me is having a patient walk up and down the hallway,” she said. “It’s just that feeling of knowing people are in the building and maybe today is not going to be rock bottom for them. That’s worth it.”