Cindy Bowman, director of nursing at Addiction Recovery Systems, sits inside the methadone dispensing lab at the new facility on Front Royal Pike in Winchester. Methadone is used to treat heroin addicts in an effort to give up heroin and avoid withdrawal symptoms. Rich Cooley/Daily

The long-awaited Winchester location of Addiction Recovery Systems’ methadone clinic has opened and has started treating area residents battling drug addiction.

The first of its kind in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, the clinic at 210 Front Royal Pike, Winchester, assists individuals overcoming various addictions through prescription medical treatment, one-on-one counseling and group counseling, said Executive Director Kimberley Berlin.

“[It’s] a very holistic, if you will, encompassing program,” Berlin said. “… We’re touching all of the points on the [treatment and recovery] spectrum.”

“We are here to provide treatment, promote recovery and help people to change their lives for the better,” Berlin said.

Addiction Recovery Systems has facilities in Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and in Charlottesville. When the Winchester facility opened Nov. 26, the waiting list contained 20 names.

Addiction Recovery Services, an opiate addiction outpatient clinic, opened its clinic Nov. 26 at 210 Front Royal Pike in Winchester. Rich Cooley/Daily

“I don’t have to tell you that the situation in terms of heroin in the area … is really alarming,” Berlin said. “We are providing a much-needed service in the area, and in fact it’s critical.”

A serious situation already, it was made worse by a lack of available treatment centers, she said.

Many of the clinic’s current patients were driving to Manassas or to Martinsburg, West Virginia, for frequent if not daily treatments. In addition to saving patients time spent traveling, the new clinic saves them thousands of dollars a year in gas costs and car repairs.

“Most important [is] that we are local and serving the local community,” Berlin said.

Patients are referred to the facility by their attending physicians and must meet the necessary criteria through medical, nursing and psychological evaluations. They must be 18 or older and have struggled with an opiate addiction for a year or longer.

Treatment includes daily doses of liquid methadone calibrated to the milliliter following a patient blood test at his or her first visit. A pain killer, methadone is a synthetic opiate, but treatment doses are small enough not to create euphoria or cravings in the patient.

After a $100 registration fee that includes first appointments, office visits are $13 a day or $91 a week paid in advance by cash or credit. The clinic does not take insurance or Medicaid.

The clinic treats alcohol addiction, as long as the patient’s primary reason for treatment is opiate addiction.

“Opiate addiction is different from, say, alcoholism,” Berlin said. Once an individual has ceased drinking, it can take 30 to 90 days for the brain to recalibrate, sometimes with the help of medication.”

But in terms of opiate addiction, the brain does not reset so easily after abstaining from the substance, she said.

That’s why the clinic uses a variety of methods of treating patients, she said, “because it gives the patient’s brain, if you will, and body an opportunity to recalibrate and that process can take up to a year or more.”

“It is a highly complex process and that is why [the program] is highly individualized as well as holistic,” said Berlin. “It is a real big toolbox, if you will.”

A Leesburg resident, Berlin has worked in the field of addiction treatment for more than 20 years. For 10 years, she worked in the policy domain of health and human services in the Office of the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — from 2002 to 2006 as a White House appointee.

“I’ve created and launched three separate programs in the field of addiction and so this opportunity is … a natural progression of my career track,” she said. “And here I am.

“And loving every minute of it.”

Contact the clinic at 540-545-8794.

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com