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To medicate or not to medicate? : Breaking the healing locus controversy

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A controversy that has been brewing for years is back in the spotlight, as the Healing Place continues construction in Wilmington.

During a recent visit, Attorney General Josh Stein said medically assisted treatment, or “MAT,” is the gold standard of care, but that type of treatment is not offered at Healing Place, a new detox facility being built to address opioids in our area. crisis.

Stein praised Coastal Horizons for its work and use of MAT, yet Coastal Horizons was not asked to run the new 200-bed rehab center because of its use of MAT to treat addiction.

“I wish him the best of luck,” CEO Margaret Stargell said during Stein’s visit. “But I assure you, as I said, we’ve been doing this for a number of years. And without all the treatment options available, it won’t be successful.

The Healing Place, a drug and alcohol addiction rehabilitation center, is set to open in September. New Hanover County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield was the only one to vote against funding the facility after Trillium Health announced it would not work with Coastal Horizons or provide physician-assisted treatment.

“(Hearing Josh Stein) say categorically that MAT is the gold standard makes me think,” Barfield said in response to Stein’s visit.

Coastal Horizons has helped thousands of men and women struggling with addiction. They recommend MAT for opioid addiction, saying it’s more effective at reducing cravings, easing withdrawal symptoms, and preventing addicts from relapsing.

“Our big concern with people recovering from opioid use disorder without medication is that often when they relapse, their body has no tolerance,” explained Kenny House of Coastal Horizon. . “And by not having a tolerance, they are at a higher risk of overdose and death.”

In 2019, the Wilmington City Council approved a Special Use Permit for Trillium and the Healing Place to build a non-medical drug rehabilitation center after Wilmington’s opioid addiction topped the national charts. Mayor Bill Saffo attended these hour-long meetings, but recently expressed concern about the Healing Place using peer-led methods instead of MAT.

Reporter: “Did you feel most or all of the time that it would be a medical treatment center or a non-medical drug rehabilitation center?”
Saffo: “Well, again Peyton, we were a bit confused because we had Margaret Weller Stargell representing Coastal Horizons, which we know is medical treatment…and we had an organization talking of peer relationships, and we figured they would ultimately work in the long run.

But in 2019, Saffo and other board members approved the special use permit for a non-medical drug rehabilitation center, not a facility using physician-assisted treatment.

In the video from the City’s 2019 meeting, Trillium asked Council to approve the Special Use Permit, saying they couldn’t sign a contract with Coastal until they defined the building. and location.

“We have been working for several months with Coastal Horizons, a well-known agency here in your community, which has been there for 49 years treating addiction,” said a Trillium representative.

Throughout the meeting, attorneys representing neighboring businesses, such as Delaney Radiology and Lower Cape Fear Lifecare, were concerned that Healing Place’s non-medical stance might not be as effective as Coastal Horizons.

“There is absolutely no mention in the special use request of medical personnel,” attorney Melissa Gott said at the 2019 meeting.

Others say Coastal Horizons could exploit the project, its model and the Healing Place model disagreeing.

“No amount of management or the type of management can change what the Healing Place is,” one local said. “It won’t change depending on who runs it.”

In 2020, Trillium chose another operator out of Kentucky, opting for the non-medical treatment the Board approved at the meeting instead of MAT or Coastal Horizons.

We asked Coastal Horizon’s Margaret Stargell: If you played a role in Healing Place, would it still be a non-medical rehab facility?

“No,” she replied. “Having a facility that won’t allow drug treatment is just… it’s short-sighted.”

“Hopefully what we have will be a bronze standard,” Barfield said after Stein called MAT the gold standard. “Somewhere near where he needs to be.”

The Healing Place will not receive any funding from the Opioid Settlement Fund due to its model of being inclusive of people with other addictions.

We contacted Trillium and the Healing Place several times for feedback. We didn’t hear from you last week.