The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Health clinic adds new addiction treatment


Wahkiakum County commissioners discussed addiction treatment and other health care issues when they met Tuesday in Cathlamet.

Dian Cooper, executive director of the Cowlitz Family Health Clinic, said staff of the center's clinics will soon be certified to prescribe a new treatment of opiate addiction and overdoses, suboxone.

Once certified, clinic staff will be able to administer the treatment to the public and in the county jail.

The new treatment, however, is expensive, about $100 per month for generic brands.

"So, before we start using it, we might need to have a strategy on how to pay for this stuff," Cooper said. "Once someone enters the jail, they lose their Medicaid coverage."

Cooper added that people using heroin and other opiates are often using other drugs, such as methamphetamine, so treatment for those drugs is also needed, and if a patient doesn't do well with the treatment program, they would be referred to a substance abuse counselor.

During treatment, patients have regular drug tests to see how well they're doing.

Treasurer Tammy Peterson commented that she hoped the medication would be closely monitored so that patients couldn't sell it on the street, as sometimes happens with methadone. An overdose of methadone can be fatal, she said.

Cooper replied that suboxone is administered either as a pill or on a strip of paper, and both are dissolved under the tongue.

"We don't want this to get into the street drugs, so we'll monitor it very closely," she said. "We do a pretty stringent screening up front before we start people on it."

Cooper reported that the state Health Care Authority (HCA) has accepted bids for fully integrated managed care plans in the region to take effect in 2020.

One of the regional plans with an adequate network was an unsuccessful bidder, she said. There will be two providers, she said, but local providers may appeal to include the provider with more expanded service. HCA officials seem to favor large, national providers over regional providers, she said.

"Out here in our area, where Community Health Plan has really gone above and beyond to beef up the networks and support all of us who are providing service, it's devastating," she said. "They're for profit plans; their obligation is to their share holders."

"It takes away from service," commented Commissioner Blair Brady.

"Yeah, it does," Cooper said. "It's very concerning."

Cooper added that requirements for electronic records will be very demanding, and she is exploring the feasibility of bringing the county's health department in under the family health center's operation.


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