By Katie Demeria
WINCHESTER -- When Steven Singer, executive director of Addiction Recovery Systems-Winchester, interviewed for his position, he said his employers told him they were convinced he was right for the job after just one line: "It's about time someone actually wants to bring this to the community," Singer told his interviewer.
Addiction Recovery Systems-Winchester is a clinic coming to the area early this summer that will use medication-assisted treatment to help those with opiate addictions.
Opiates include prescription pain medication of the narcotic variety like oxycontin or vicodin, Singer said, along with heroin, the use of which has been growing throughout the valley.
According to a Virginia State Police press release, this year the region has seen 11 heroin-related deaths so far.
"The Winchester area was identified as very much in need of this service," Singer said.
He said it is clear how "desperate this community is for help."
Addiction Recovery Systems-Winchester will offer outpatient assistance, allowing patients to continue their daily lives while fighting their addictions with the aid of the drug methadone, Singer said.
"I don't say that with any guilt or cringe in any way about talking about methadone because there are many people in the community who have misinformation about methadone maintenance," he said.
"But this form of treatment is the most successful treatment for opiate-addicted people who are long-term addicted," Singer continued. "The research is vast in its volume."
Methadone can be used as a safe drug, Singer said, that takes the place of opiates like heroin. Each patient's use of methadone, though, will vastly differ.
"Some people will be on it very long term because their brains are broken," he said. "Their receptors are so destroyed -- and especially in younger people, because they have more receptors."
Others will be able to taper off of consistent use of opiates through the use of methadone, he said.
"The medical staff works to get the proper dose so the person is in that comfort range where they're not feeling withdrawal symptoms and they're not experiencing euphoria, either," Singer said.
The goal of the clinic is to get patients started on methadone as soon as possible to begin treatment, Singer said. Patients must have been addicted to an opiate for more than a year and be experiencing withdrawal symptoms when they contact the clinic.
Every individual who participates in the program will have to undergo counseling individually and with a group, he added.
The clinic will not be able to bill insurance companies, Singer said, but they will give invoices so patients can be reimbursed through their insurance. Otherwise, the program costs $14 per day, which includes both methadone doses and counseling.
Singer said there is little he would enjoy doing more than working as the clinic's executive director. Not only has he directly seen the need in the community, but he has also been personally impacted by heroin abuse: he lost his cousin to a heroin overdose, and nearly lost his best friend to the drug, as well.
"Lots of people in the community talk about doing things -- I believe in actually doing things," Singer said.
Learn more about Singer and the clinic by visiting www.sbsingerlpc.com.
Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org