Mono County Behavioral Health says need for better addiction treatment is dire
“It’s gone from a few a month, to a few a week,” said Mono County Behavioral Health Director Robin Roberts when speaking of trends in Mono County residents seeking help for opioid use.
Roberts also said that her staff typically sees an increase in requests for Methadone and Suboxone, drugs that can be used in conjunction with therapy to treat opioid addiction, “when the mountain gets its new seasonal staff on board.”
Methadone, Suboxone, and Vivitrol are all drugs that can be administered to those suffering from opioid addiction to ease cravings, mitigate the high from using opioids, and treat the symptoms of withdrawal, which can lead to seizures and cardiac arrest. Vivitrol can also be used to treat withdrawal from alcoholism, which Roberts says is still “far and away our biggest problem.”
According to Roberts, those drugs are not currently available in Mono County. There is no doctor in the area willing to prescribe them. Additionally, Roberts said that the Emergency Room at Mammoth Hospital does not have a protocol for treating withdrawal symptoms. “The treatment available really depends on the doctor you get,” said Roberts. “We need a prescriber who is willing to work with that population.” Mammoth Hospital was unavailable for comment on this matter as of press time.
The drugs are only effective at treating addiction if used under medical supervision. Mono County Behavioral Health has two dedicated Alcohol and Drug Counselors on staff and is in the process of training all counselors and case managers to treat clients comprehensively, addressing both mental illness and addiction in one visit. Roberts said that the clinic’s capacity to build relationships with clients and keep them in treatment is harmed by the lack of medical services available to treat the symptoms of withdrawal.
“We are hearing weekly now of someone coming in and looking to get clean,” said Roberts, who said that most of the people seeking help are young. “We also see a lot of older people who call because a spouse is suffering from withdrawal after being prescribed opioids following an operation or medical procedure. They don’t know what to do.