Opiate recovery clinic expands
The Reclaim Clinic is Newberg's first outpatient clinic dedicated to opiate recovery. The clinic specializes in medication-assisted treatment.
Owner Katie Nicofia, a nurse practictioner, rented space and opened the clinic a year ago, but was limited by Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) regulations to a total of 30 patients for the first year. She was recently approved to see up to 100.
"I knew that there was such a need in this community there was no stand-alone clinic that specializes in Suboxone," Nicofia said, "I thought, 'You know what, I live in Yamhill County, I see the need and said I want to do this.' I have a heart for those that suffer from addiction. This is what I want to do and who I want to work with."
In the state of Oregon nurse practitioners are viewed as independent medical providers. Addiction treatment is different because with Suboxone, one of the main players in addiction treatment, providers are required to have a special license through the DEA in addition to the normal DEA license.
Several years ago nurse practitioners and physician assistants were allowed to write prescriptions for Suboxone to treat opioid addiction. However, it was not yet legal at the state level.
"I had trained federally and had everything in line and as soon as Oregon passed legislation to say it was okay for nurse practitioners to treat opioid addition, I submitted my paper work," Nicofia said.
She was one of the first nurse practitioners in the state of Oregon to be able to treat opioid addiction.
Nationally, the opioid epidemic is getting worse and has effected every community in the United States. Every day, more than 115 people die of an opioid overdose in the United States, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. More than 64,000 died of drug abuse in 2016 with more than 42,000 of those due to opioid overdose, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
"The rural setting has definitely been affected because of poverty and our resources out here are scarce," Nicofia explained. "I could see the uptick in opioid deaths and the uptick in opioid prescriptions when I was working in the ER. I could see more drug seeking behavior, you could see the addictions happening. It's all ages, all socio economic status, all races, and all genders…No one is immune to addiction and when you view it as a disease, and it is, then you do see it affects everybody."
The majority get started with prescriptions for opiods, according to Nicofia.
"As health care providers, we were all unknowingly a part of the problem," Nicofia said "There was a big push several years ago, where pain was considered the fifth vital sign. People should not be in pain."
As a result, pharmaceutical companies and health care providers played a big role as well. Now, we are seeing the ramifications. The pendulum has swung the other way to where it is now more difficult to get pain medication.
"That then causes an uptick in heroin," Nicofia said. "You start buying them licitly and if you can't get them licitly then you start buying them illicitly."
As a result, addicts start taking more and more, which is known as "chasing the dragon." "They literally feel like they are dying," Nocifa explained.
The medication helps because the Suboxone binds to the same receptors as heroin does, although in a different way.
"You don't get the high but it helps to get through the withdrawal," Nocifa said. "It's really difficult to stop cold turkey. It is miserable."