Region Ten in Greene County has a new way to help those struggling with drug addiction in the county.
Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) has been used in Charlottesville for the past two years and was recently started in Greene as a way to combat the opioid crisis, said Shannon Wright, Greene County Director.
The program, which can include the prescription for Suboxone, includes an over-the-phone screening and in-person assessment. Greene and Louisa counties were the next to utilize the program because they have the highest rates of drug overdoses after city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County, she said.
“Suboxone is proven to help people to walk away from their addictions,” Wright said. “There are a lot of misconceptions about Suboxone, but it really is proven to save lives. It’s not replacing one drug for another; it works on the physiological parts of the brain that have been after that (fix).”
Wright said the team also encourages either individual or group therapy, which coupled with the medication treatment, has a proven level of success.
“It’s a collaborative, comprehensive kind of approach to addiction,” she said. “Addiction is a disease. It’s a brain disorder, just like other kinds of mental health disorders, which we’ve made a lot of strides as a society in understanding. Depression is much better understood that it was decades ago. It’s not some kind of failing of the person; it’s something that’s happening with our brains that needs treatment.”
While the state is prioritizing the fight against opioids through grant funding for programs like MAT, Wright said the biggest challenge faced in Greene County is having enough providers.
“I’ve been with this office for six years and in that time we’ve seen an explosion of resources, which is fantastic,” she said. “When I started here the only counselors in Greene County were employed by Region Ten. There are some private providers in Ruckersville now, which is wonderful, and they stay full.”
Wright said the new providers have helped because the center’s primary full-time therapist is a male and that might not work for everyone.
“The new providers have been great to see, but I think there’s still room for growth and other options to come to our area,” she said.
Region Ten is the public mental health system in Virginia, though they go by different names such as a Community Services Board or health authority. There are 40 organizations similar to Region Ten throughout the state. Region Ten primarily runs on fee for service and billing insurance. Region Ten helps with mental health, intellectual and developmental disability services and substance abuse.
In years’ past, there wasn’t always demand for the types of services offered by Region Ten.
“I think it’s great that people want services,” she said. “It’s a positive move for people talking about it and wanting help, and we want to help. There’s been some progress in terms of the stigma around mental health and substance use problems.”
Wright said mental health and substance use problems are not rare.
“We all know somebody, actually many people, who are affected by those things whether they show it to us or not,” she said. “People get better. Recovery is real. It’s possible.”
September is suicide awareness month, and Wright is part of the Suicide Prevention Awareness Resource Council (SPARC).
“Suicide is now the second leading cause of death for young people,” she said.
The group is holding a fundraising 5K on Saturday, Oct. 19 in Louisa County. Funds are used to help pay for Mental Health First Aid and other courses for the public.
If you or someone you know needs help with opioid addiction, contact Care Coordinator Michelle Stone at (434) 962-1949. For information about SPARC, visit sparchope.org.