Some states are coming up with new ways to prevent fentanyl and other drug overdoses, including a system that will show up where it’s most needed. Places like Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Colorado, and more launched mobile clinics that go straight to the people who may not otherwise get treatment for their addiction.
Assisted Recovery Centers of America (ARCA) in St. Louis offers medication-assisted outpatient treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. It recently launched a brand-new mobile addiction clinic that is the first of its kind in Missouri.
ARCA’s mobile clinic goes out into unhoused communities and other communities that need care. Services are provided by professionals and include things like full medical workups, mental health assessments, medications, injections and more.
"Substance use as we know it has just changed for a lot of reasons… and mainly that’s because of fentanyl," said ARCA Executive Director Aaron Laxton.
ARCA thinks of itself as the hub of addiction treatment in Missouri. For Laxton, the job is personal.
"I’ve lost three family members to fentanyl overdose," said Laxton.
One of the family members was his niece Heather Helton. Helton was taken off life support after she overdosed and died on September 1, 2014.
"Every time I’m working, I’m working with someone I can relate to," said Laxton.
Laxton said he’s also struggled with substance abuse his entire life.
"I’m fortunately in a different place now. I’m in the second year of my PhD, I’m a licensed clinical social worker, I have a family. But, all of that is only because I received care that we are now rendering to other people," said Laxton.
ARCA's mobile clinic now brings life-saving addiction treatments straight to those in need.
"This actually began out of the trunk of my car and goes out to the community, to individuals who are unhoused or who didn’t have access to services," said Laxton.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Dr. Nora Volkow said fentanyl is the backbone of overdose deaths. Dr. Volkow said innovations like mobile clinics are incredibly effective.
"I'm absolutely hopeful. I don't believe in fairy tales, but I have also seen how powerful treatments can be in actually helping people achieve recovery," said Dr. Volkow.
ARCA CEO Percy Menzies said his calling to bring addiction treatment into the field of medicine began 23 years ago.
"The strength of ARCA has been a medical detox and stabilization. When people come to us, they are in severe withdrawal, they have a lot of anxiety, they are just crawling out of their skin," said Menzies.
Menzies said treatments they offer like medication can make a huge difference in breaking the vicious cycle of having withdrawal symptoms.
"Once you break that cycle, now they can deal with life when life stops. That includes housing, jobs and family involvement. We give them hope that this is a very treatable illness, and you can get your life back together," said Menzies.
Everything, including medications, is completely free at the ARCA mobile clinic. All of it is funded by states and the federal government.