Concerns Raised at LT Supers’ Meeting Over Proposed Clinic to Treat Opioid Addiction

CLEARFIELD – A small crowd squeezed into the Lawrence Township Supervisors’ meeting room at Tuesday’s meeting, most with concerns about a proposed business coming to Hyde.

Prior to the meeting, rumors had been that the business would be a Methadone clinic, much like the one located near the airport, Discovery House.

However, as it was explained, the building is not to be a Methadone clinic, but an insurance-based clinic to treat opioid addiction, mainly with Suboxone.

The public comment portion of the meeting kicked off with concerns raised by Acting Clearfield Area School District Superintendent Terry Struble.

Struble’s concerns focused mainly on the location of the building currently being renovated. The building is located in Hyde, and according to the business’ Web site, the address is 1501 Airstream Way.

Struble noted every bus that passes over the railroad tracks nearby must stop, open the doors and make certain no trains are coming.

In addition to the buses at the beginning and end of the day, there are also buses for the Clearfield County Career and Technology Center, buses for the elementary school, extracurricular activities and Cen-Clear buses.

Struble said the district has already considered rerouting options and there isn’t anything that is really workable.

After Struble’s brief presentation, other people began asking questions, but the supervisors first asked that the representative of the company have a chance to explain what the business is before questions were raised.

Brett McGennis, chief executive officer of Accessible Recovery Services, explained that the company, founded by a doctor, is an insurance-based practice to treat patients with opioid addiction.

McGennis’ presentation was regularly interrupted with questions; however, he attempted to explain the purpose of the company and what they proposed to offer the community different than what is already available.

He said there are 34 locations in the state, including Clarion, Meadville, Johnstown, Indiana and Cranberry, just north of Pittsburgh. Unlike the Methadone clinic, which is mostly cash-based, although they do take medical assistance insurance, ARS only takes insurance for payment.

McGennis said the clinics do not dispense medication; however, if the clinic does start offering Vivotrol injections, the injections would be done at the clinic. Suboxone is not dispensed at the clinics. Patients are given prescriptions to be filled at local pharmacies.

ARS was founded by Dr. Frank A. Kunkel, according to the Web site, which also states that treatment is individualized for each patient.

McGennis said the medical professionals writing the prescriptions are doctors, nurse practitioners or physician assistants with special licenses with limits on what they can prescribe.

Patients are run through the Pennsylvania Drug Monitoring Program database as well as surrounding states to track whether they are being treated elsewhere.

ARS also keeps track of Suboxone arrests and anyone who is patient of ARS is discharged from the program if arrested for Suboxone abuse.

When asked if patients are ever “cured” of their addictions, McGennis said it can vary. Often, patients take a maintenance dose throughout their lives. Others are discharged from the program.

He said it varies from patient to patient and based on a treatment plan created by the clinic doctor, the patient’s regular doctor and therapist. Patients are also required to attend therapy at least once a month, preferably more often.

The clinic would not be open all day, every day, McGennis explained. He said to start the clinic would be opened one day a week for about four hours, and it is an appointment-based business. If there are no appointments scheduled, the clinic is not open.

Residents raised many concerns, which included patients being arrested for being under the influence of Suboxone, people getting prescriptions and selling the pills and the possibility of the clinic adding to the opioid addiction problem in the area. McGennis attempted to answer many of the questions.

He explained Suboxone has a limit to how high a person can get and taking more does not result in a bigger high. Prescriptions are only good for a short time, and if a patient claims they’ve lost a prescription or had one stolen, they need proof of a police report or they’re discharged from the program.

Supervisor Jeremy Ruffner said he did some research and raised some questions. He asked if ARS sees a need for such a clinic in the area.

Ruffner said he talked with the Clearfield-Jefferson Drug and Alcohol Commission and there are no current waiting lists for treatment, there are clinics and doctors in the area that offer treatment and that a multifaceted approach is the best way to treat addiction. McGennis said ARS believes there is a need for the services they offer.

Police Chief Doug Clark also asked several questions. He asked what the average number of patients serviced is, and McGennis said it varies, some clinics see 10 per week while others see more.  He said that Clarion averages 40 in one week.

Clark asked what happens if the patient is under the influence when they come for an appointment, and McGennis said they do oral-fluid drug tests at every appointment, at the reception desk, and test for multiple drugs.

If someone is under the influence, he said they do not receive a prescription. The test also shows if they are not taking the medication as prescribed.

Later in the meeting, while the supervisors were in executive session, McGennis answered more questions from the press and Clark.

He said the clinic can work around the school bus schedule. The clinics start at four hours and add hours or days as needed. He also said that ARS will work with supervisors on other restrictions, including not prescribing Vivotrol, if that is part of the agreement.

The area is zoned Commercial Highway, which allows for medical clinics. After the executive session, the supervisors confirmed that if the clinic meets all the requirements for permits, access, etc., they cannot block the clinic opening.

Currently ARS is using a building permit for renovations, but has not picked it up or paid for it. An occupancy permit has not been issued yet, and the state Department of Transportation also needs to issue a highway occupancy permit.

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