FHC Expanding Services to Help Address Opioid Crisis

In July, the Family Health Centers (FHC) announced its plan to launch a substance abuse services program to help address the opioid crisis in Kentucky.  Earlier this year, FHC won a competitive grant award totaling $325,000 annually from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to begin providing direct services to individuals with opioid addiction.  Louisville, like many cities across the nation, is currently experiencing an unprecedented explosion of heroin and other opioid addiction, resulting in overdose deaths.


“We know there is a need among our patients for opioid treatment and recovery” states Bill Wagner, CEO of Family Health Centers. “In the past, Family Health Centers has provided substance abuse services to our patients who are homeless, but now the need for services extends to many of our other patients.”  FHC’s substance abuse program will be integrated into primary medical services, where physicians and nurse practitioners identify patients with opioid addition and link them to substance abuse workers. “Our goal is to treat the whole person, and that sometimes means treating addiction in conjunction with other illnesses.”


FHC program model will initially focus on current health center patients and will utilize in-house substance abuse workers to provide assessments, motivational interviewing, case management, and ongoing support to patients engaged in recovery. In addition, FHC will provide naltrexone to patients who have already been through detox and are currently in recovery.   Naltrexone, commercially known as Vivitrol, is a monthly shot that blocks the effects of opioids and alcohol and is used to prevent relapse.  “A big reason why we chose to offer naltrexone is that it has no street value, it won’t get you high” says Dr. Jackson, Chief Medical Officer for FHC. “Also, naltrexone is administered once a month, and not weekly or daily like other forms of medication assistance treatment.  I think it much more realistic for our patients to come to an appointment once a month.”


“This is new territory for Family Health Centers, so we are using this time to learn how best to integrate services for individuals with substance use issues” says Shelia Cundiff, LCSW, LCADC, Director for Substance Abuse Services at FHC.  “Our model of substance use care will be very different than what you will find in traditional substance use settings.  The services are primary care based, with a focus on case management, assessment and linkages to community support and resources.  Physicians, APRN’s, and Behavioral Health providers will be working close with and referring patients to our substance abuse workers for care.”  Initially, the program will have the capacity to serve approximately 400 patients annually and is expected to begin providing services in July, 2016.