What Can We Learn From the Nation’s First 24/7 Methadone Clinic?
In October 2017, Community Medical Services (CMS), an Arizona-based addiction treatment provider, opened America’s first medication-assisted treatment (MAT) clinic that operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s a level of accessibility that will sound almost unimaginably helpful to anyone used to organizing their life around restricted clinic hours.
The first-of-its-kind program, which offers methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone among other services, is located in North Phoenix near I-17—an area where drug fatality rates are among the highest in the state.
CMS hoped that 24-hour availability in this strategic location would help reach people who need its services the most—people who may not have sought help otherwise. In addition to MAT, the site also offers counseling and community resources.
Setting it up wasn’t easy. Arizona drug laws are notoriously harsh and unyielding, and general attitudes toward people who use drugs are similar. Indeed, many community-members, politicians and local business-owners voiced opposition when rumors surfaced that the existing clinic would go 24/7.All Posts
I wondered what CMS has learned from its experience of operating a 24/7 clinic for over a year and a half, in a country where MAT access is typically restricted. And I wanted to know what, if anything, about the CMS model is worth replicating, as other agencies begin expanding hours nationwide (there is now also a 24-hour clinic in Tucson and one in Wisconsin). So I visited Phoenix to ask these questions and more.
Community Medical Services has been providing addiction treatment since 1983, when it opened a relatively small program, I learned at its headquarters in Scottsdale. It’s now the largest OTP (opioid treatment program, licensed to dispense methadone) in Arizona.
Having expanded rapidly, CMS is no longer exclusive to Arizona. The agency currently operates 32 OTP sites in nine states, said CEO Nick Savros, serving a current total of 10,600 clients. The large majority take methadone; a small minority—those who ask for it—take Vivitrol (naltrexone).
While CMS primarily treats people with opioid use disorder, it takes the approach that drugs are only one part of a person’s addiction experience.
“It’s not about treating patients; it’s about treating the community—treating humanity,” Stavros told Filter. And he frames the idea to open a 24/7 clinic as a response to a community need.
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Written by Zach Rhoads