To help combat opioid abuse epidemic, new methadone clinics to open up in Ann Arbor, Sterling Heights and St. Clair Shores

Oct 15, 2015 at 10:43 am
Pinnacle Treatment Centers —a company with locations throughout the northeast and midwest— just opened a methadone treatment center in Ann Arbor on October 8, with clinics soon to follow in Sterling Heights and St. Clair Shores.

Why should you care? Thanks to a rise in the last decades of prescription opioid abuse, deaths related to heroin have nearly tripled nationally in just over ten years. Health providers routinely describe this as an epidemic. According to the CDC, heroin deaths grew by 286% between 2002 and 2013. The CDC says that those who are addicted to opioid painkillers such as oxycontin, Vicodin and codeine are forty times more likely to find themselves dealing with a heroin addiction at some point.

"This disease hits many families, and it hits hard," said Chris Byers, the regional director for Pinnacle Treatment in Michigan. "The nation as a whole has recognized that this heroin and opiate epidemic is large and doesn’t discriminate and it’s impacting everyone. I’ve been in the methadone field for twelve-plus years, and I’ve never seen the acceptance of the need for treatment as it is right now."

A quick internet search reveals that there are at least seven functioning methadone clinics in Detroit proper. There are also in-patient services and a wide variety of 12-step meetings, including those for people dealing with drug addiction.

Pinnacle is targeting Washtenaw and Macomb Counties because they saw a great need there. As Jameson Cook wrote in the Macomb Daily last year, "Macomb County, the state’s third most-populous county, last year had the fourth most total substance-abuse admissions, 4,350, behind Wayne, Oakland and Genesee counties, according to the Bureau of Substance Abuse and Addiction Services within the Michigan Department of Community Health." Good numbers are available on this mess, thanks in part to work done by the U-M Injury Center and the Michigan Department of Community Health

"Michigan had massive increases in overdoses of opiates," Byers says. "Though there are a lot of services on the residential side, there wasn’t anything outside of Detroit for treating the opiate epidemic. We know that’s where the problem has spread, to suburbs and rural areas."

The services that Pinnacle are initially offering are targeted, specific, low cost outpatient treatments. They hope to expand to be able to offer other services, but to start with, these will all be methadone treatment centers. "We set a rate at $14 a day which makes the cost very low," Byers says. "It's a bundled rate that includes as much counseling as they’ll need, both twelve step-based group and individual counseling. You can get a year of treatment for approximately $4500/ year; you couldn’t get a week of residential for that. We do accept insurance but unfortunately, even with the parity act, addiction treatment is still the least funded of insurance programs. If an individual is lucky enough to have insurance we do work with that, of course."

Any methadone treatment that lasts beyond one month is controversial. But in my personal experience, it works.  I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be alive without methadone, even though I was only treated with it once, and for a period of several weeks in order to help detox off of heroin. At the time, I was near the lowest of my lows. But I did kick heroin and cocaine within months of my stay at Brooklyn's Woodhull hospital. For me, it has been twelve-step work that's helped me remain clean and sober in the 21 years since then. But I know that methadone can work, and it does save lives. Anyway, enough about me. 

"Methadone is not for everybody, but what we do is save lives," Byers says. "When these people die, what’s the ripple effect of that? That part is too much to sit idly by and watch. We want to raise people’s bottoms — maybe we can meet them where they’re at so they don’t need to lose their jobs. Somewhere where they’re our last hope. Success rates for opioid addiction are the lowest. We’re an avenue that gives them an opportunity to move forward. They can stop, put their life on hold, and get it together."

"We hear it all the time: 'You’re just trading one drug for another!' That’s absolutely not the case. Drugs of abuse have a pathological effect on the brain. When you use methadone, it’s a medication that allows us to break that schedule. In time it allows the brain to heal so people can come down. The actual situation is unique to the individual. This is a chronic disease, so with that it, is a disease that can be managed, similar to diabetes."

Byers, who found his own uncle dead from alcohol abuse at the age of 12, adds that it is free for anyone to come in and talk if they think they might be addicted to these powerful drugs. "I encourage them for being brave enough to call. I encourage them to come in and be assessed. If you think you have a problem, there’s a good chance you probably do."