On Thursday April 11, the Olympia Bupe Clinic (OBC) at Capital Recovery Center (CRC) began treatment of its 200th patient, capping a three-month period of rapid growth and service to the community.
The 200th patient was “Misty,” a 21-year-old female who has been living homeless in Olympia. She started injecting heroin two years ago after her father died from an overdose. She wanted to start medication so she could stop using heroin, return home to her mother and start looking for a job.
OBC opened in downtown Olympia on January 9, 2018, according to Jim Wright, CRC’s Executive Director. It is a walk-in clinic that provides same-day access to buprenorphine (often known by the brand name Suboxone®), a highly effective medicine that treats addiction to heroin or prescription pain pills.
“OBC is one of the first clinics in the country designed specifically to treat high risk patients,” said Mr. Wright. “We especially welcome people who have already experienced adverse effects of drug use such as homelessness, jail time or overdose.”
“The people at highest risk have the hardest time getting access to treatment,” according to Dr. Lucinda Grande, OBC’s Medical Director. “To address this problem, we use a harm reduction model. We provide tools for people to make stepwise improvements to their health and safety.”
“Most of our patients are ready to completely give up using heroin,” says Sofi Harnish, RN, the clinic’s nurse care manager. “But we want to serve even those who are not completely ready. Every day on Suboxone is a safer day, when they are not at risk of an overdose.”
Buprenorphine protects against overdose, withdrawal sickness, and opioid craving, and yet it does not produce a drug high, according to Dr. Grande. It allows people to regain stability and make positive life changes.
The clinic makes it easy for patients to get the medicine, eliminating every conceivable barrier. There are no appointments and no cost. The medicine is dispensed on-site at the time of the visit. Peer recovery coaches greet patients and do new intakes, creating a welcoming atmosphere. They also help patients access other resources.
The clinic has two federal funding sources channeled through Washington State – the Medicaid Transformation Demonstration and the State Opioid Response – and has support from the Thurston Mason Behavioral Health Organization. Additionally, Medicaid pays for most clinic visits and medicines.
OBC is making strides against the stubborn problem of homelessness. In a recent survey done at the clinic by Amanda Bohannon, RN, about one-third of patients noted improvement in their housing situation within weeks of starting the medicine. “Most patients had unstable housing,” said Ms. Bohannon. “People are now reconnecting with their families, who are taking them back into their homes. Many have been able to find and keep jobs, and that helps them afford stable housing.”
Widespread stigma and the high cost of housing remain huge challenges, according to Meta Hogan, director of the OBC peer recovery coach program. “We really need to address housing affordability to overcome homelessness,” she said. “But we are excited to see our patients succeeding.”
Ms. Bohannon’s survey also found that improved mood and self-image were nearly universal after starting buprenorphine. Reduction in both chronic pain and non-opioid drug use was common.
The clinic has rapidly expanded and is now seeing up to 26 patients each evening. With such a large demand, the clinic will soon exceed its capacity. “We, unfortunately, may need to start turning patients away,” said Dr. Grande. “The limiting factor is the shortage of available prescribers.”
The medicine is prescribed by a rotating staff of 13 paid and volunteer physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants, most of whom have other full-time jobs. But few other local medical providers have a “waiver,” which is the certification needed to prescribe buprenorphine to treat addiction. The waiver requires several hours of training to understand the medicine and federal regulations.
“Many potential prescribers have not yet stepped forward,” said Dr. Grande. “I think the biggest problem is that they don’t realize how easy and rewarding this is. We all want to save lives, to make a difference. Serving at OBC is a direct way to do just that.”
A free four-hour partial waiver training will be offered at Providence St. Peter Hospital on Friday, May 17th from 9 AM – 1 PM. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-493-5583. See the attached media alert.
Mr. Wright passionately believes in OBC’s mission. “I am excited about the rapid progress we have already seen,” he said. “This clinic is having a direct impact on both the opioid and homelessness crises.”
Who: Olympia Bupe Clinic at Capital Recovery Center
What: Walk-in clinic for opioid treatment medication (buprenorphine, also known as Suboxone®), same-day treatment, no cost, on-site dispensing. Peer recovery coaches help with basic needs and referrals for long term treatment, counseling, medical care, and housing services.
When: Monday – Friday, 4 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Where: Capital Recovery Center, 1000 Cherry Street SE, Olympia, WA 98501. (360) 349-0033. email@example.com | http://crcoly.org/
About Capital Recovery Center: Capital Recovery Center (CRC), established in 1989, is a not-for-profit, Washington State Certified Behavioral Health Agency, specializing in Co-Occurring Treatment, which integrates substance use disorder and mental health services.