WILLIAMSON - Williamson Memorial Hospital is offering a new Vivitrol program as an option to combat the ongoing opioid crisis in the Tug Valley area.

"This is the largest issue facing our community, and if we are true healthcare providers and wanting to enhance the well being and care of our community, then you cannot overlook this issue," Williamson Memorial Hospital CEO Charlie Hatfield said during a press conference Monday at the hospital. 'The issue is addiction and dependence on a drug, and it has been out of hand for quite some time ... and if we don't roll up our sleeves and address the issue the right way, it will only get worse."

Vivitrol is a non-addictive, once-a-month treatment for opioid and alcohol dependence. It is an antagonist medication that blocks opioid receptors in the brain for one month at a time, helping patients to prevent relapse to opioid dependence, following detox, and fight alcohol dependence while focusing on counseling.

Counseling can help those addicted work through the psychological aspects of dependence, and medications can help address the physical changes in the brain.

Nance Bevins, M.Ed., NCC, LPCC, LPC., oversees the Behavioral Health and Substance Abuse Department at WMH and spoke about the advantages that she has heard first-hand from Vivitrol patients.

"Patients have reported that they feel good, have no cravings and that they feel more normal," Bevins said. "Patients have also stated that the Vivitrol injection, as well as counseling, has changed their lives and improved their quality of living. Hearing these statements from people addicted to drugs for years is truly amazing."

During a six-month, double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical study, opioid-dependent patients being treated with a placebo and counseling were compared to opioid-dependent patients being treated with Vivitrol and counseling.

Vivitrol patients reported 90% opioid-free weeks, compared to 35% with a placebo. Vivitrol patients had a 55% decrease in self-reported opioid craving from baseline compared to a 3% decrease with a placebo. Vivitrol users were also 17 times less likely to relapse to a physical dependence compared to one time less likely using the placebo. Vivitrol users also stayed in treatment longer than those on the placebo medication.

Mingo County chief probation officer Tonya Webb along with probation officer Shawn Haubrich brought two participants from the Mingo County Drug Court Rehab Program who had taken or was currently taking Vivitrol.

Chris Chaffin and Misty Dillon spoke about how Vivitrol helped them ditch a multi-year addiction and regain some normalcy in their everyday life when other recovery routes had been unsuccessful.

The Williamson Family Care Center in downtown Williamson is currently administering the Vivitrol injection. Lisa McCloud, who is the nurse practitioner at the Williamson Family Care Center, also spoke about the administering process of Vivitrol.

Once the injection is rendered, four hours of counseling are required each month. The clinic will then refer each Vivitrol patient to a Williamson Memorial Hospital counselor or another specialist. If the patient is successful with Vivitrol and compliant, the amount of counseling will decrease over time.

"The reason we made this formal announcement today was to let the community, and the community of opioid sufferers, know that we may have an answer," Hatfield said.

"Or at least if not the full answer, we think that we have found a critical path to help get you back to where you need to be. And that is the only solution."

For more information on Vivitrol, visit vivitrol.com.

Jarrid McCormick is a reporter for the Williamson Daily News. He can be reached by email at jmccormick@HDMediaLLC.com.