Clinic cuts off federally-funded treatment for opioid addicts, state investigating
UPDATE: The Louisiana Department of Health tells WBRZ there is funding available and should last through the end of April 2019. The LDH met with clinic leadership last week following the 2 On Your Story. Patients tell Brittany Weiss the situation has been resolved and those who were paying for doses will be reimbursed.
BATON ROUGE - Opioid addicts were hit with a shock Friday when they learned their Methadone doses would no longer be paid for and they'd instead have to front the costs themselves.
Following an inquiry from 2 On Your Side, the Louisiana Department of Health says it's investigating why this is happening and that there's a possibility patients are being discharged without a plan for care.
The Baton Rouge Comprehensive Treatment Center on Reiger Road in Baton Rouge has been operational for years. The Baton Rouge location, along with nine other clinics around the state were awarded a State Targeted Response (STR) grant for opioid treatment. The funding is $914,000 for two years beginning May 1, 2017 to April 30, 2019. DHH says grant funds have not been depleted.
Lanita Chanel Hackett has been seeking Methadone treatment at the Baton Rouge Comprehensive Treatment Center since last February. Friday, she was told she'd have to start paying for her doses because "there was no more grant money."
Years ago, Hackett says she was involved in a skiing accident that resulted in severe back pain. She was prescribed opioids to treat the pain, but became addicted to the medication.
"I'm tying to get my life back and I come Friday only to find out if I don't have $30 on Saturday I can't dose," Hackett said.
Wednesday, LDH said it wondered why people had been asked to pay for their doses when they might not have to.
East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Beau Clark says it's concerning for something like this to happen to a community where this offering is scarce.
"The fact that we have a clinic that's not able to provide that medication anymore, is going to put some people in a precarious situation," Clark said.
He fears it could have a snowball affect to the addicted population in Baton Rouge.
"The next question is how long can they handle it?" he said. "How long can you handle the withdrawal symptoms before you say, 'I can't take this anymore, I've got to go find an opioid to replace it with.'"
That could mean a prescription or resorting to the street. Or taking a chance on drugs like Fentanyl or Heroin, both of which can have deadly affects.
LDH says it's investigating this clinic in Baton Rouge and whether or not it's discharging people without a plan for care. It says there might be a managerial issue that it plans to dig into further.
The state says the treatment center signed a contract at the onset of the grant acknowledging that the grant would be for two years and that the treatment center would identify options for continuity of patient care. The STR staff has held meetings with each clinic to discuss discharge and transition planning for each client receiving services under the STR grant.
The state say, due to the absence of an executive director, the regional manager of the Baton Rouge treatment center has been discussing this issue with the Office of Behavioral Health with expectations that a plan of care will be developed for each client. Clients have been signing discharge agreements to acknowledge understanding of the next steps for STR funding. Discussions are ongoing to ensure clients are appropriately transitioned based on their needs. This facility will also be receiving funds under the LaSOR grant.
According Hackett, these agreements were not signed.
The state plans to visit the Baton Rouge treatment clinic Thursday to dive further into its investigation.