Medication assisted recovery program sets up mobile site in Dover

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DOVER — Area providers and recovery organizations are teaming up to provide mobile medication assisted recovery services in Dover to help people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Goodwin Community Health, Families First Health and Support Center and SOS Recovery Community Organization are offering the pilot mobile MAR program from 1 to 3 p.m. every Wednesday in the Dover Transportation Center lot at 33 Chestnut St.

The organizations, which comprise Greater Seacoast Community Health, note the location could move in the future.

The program started last week. It is intended to help “individuals in our community with substance use disorder and who are experiencing unstable housing and lack of access to resources during this COVID-19 era,” SOS wrote in a release.

“The goal of this initiative is to increase access to MAR services to those in our community who are most vulnerable and the least likely to access traditional office based services, especially during this time of a nationwide pandemic,” SOS wrote. “Many services in Strafford and Rockingham County for those individuals seeking recovery have been reduced due to COVID-19. Following COAST bus closures and many other changes in services in other organizations, we have decided to expand our services to a mobile setting.”

In order to access MAR services, patients will need to be either existing patients of GSCH, or be willing to become a primary care patient at GSCH.

The only medication that will be dispensed at the mobile site will be Naloxone, SOS wrote in the release.

“We will provide prescriptions that get called in locally to a pharmacy for individuals,” SOS wrote. “We plan to give only 7 day prescriptions with the plan for the patient to return weekly to the location (or in some cases arrange a telehealth visit) so as to minimize diversion issues while still providing both withdrawal management and connection to peer-recovery services.”

SOS wrote in the release patients seeking treatment for substance use disorder within the standard office-based system often encounter barriers such as stigma and behavioral health challenges making them fearful of traditional medical settings, and prolonged intake processes, which increase the risk of continued substance use and premature death.

“A Patient-centered, community based, rapid access approach prioritizes timely access to medications, reduces unnecessary use of resources, and improves effectiveness of care. This approach expands on a ‘low threshold’, harm reduction, model,” SOS wrote. “It focuses on meeting patients ‘where they are’, including them in the treatment plan, developing shared goals of care, and connecting them with primary care, behavioral health, community resources and recovery supports.”

SOS will use its Ford Transit van to transport supplies and anchor a staging area with portable canopy tents at the Dover Transportation Center.

Patient privacy will be provided using the portable canopy tents and portable sound machines.

City police, fire and emergency preparedness officials have been notified and provided permission, according to SOS.

“We are grateful for their support and understanding,” wrote SOS, which provides peer-based recovery support services at its centers in Dover, Rochester and Hampton. “The City of Dover continues to be a leader in responding to and understanding the need to allow proactive measures such as this, we hope other cities and towns will follow that lead.”

The mobile location will be staffed with peer recovery workers who are certified recovery support workers (CRSWs) from SOS, and a clinical support staff member (either a registered nurse or medical assistant) from Greater Seacoast Community Health, who will collaborate on the patient intake.

“These staff will meet with patients on a first come, first served schedule,” SOS wrote. “Staff will transport a wifi hotspot and computer tablets with them, and these tablets will be utilized to connect the patients with an off-site provider who will conduct the provider portion of the visit by telehealth, and be able to prescribe buprenorphine and/or withdrawal medication as needed, and if deemed appropriate.”

Behavioral health providers will also be accessible by telehealth for a warm handoff or consult if needed, according to SOS. Peer recovery support services will be offered on-site as well.

SOS wrote that everyone involved in the program is “proud of our ability to provide this critical service.”

“This project has been supported by leadership of Greater Seacoast Community Health, our providers and our staff,” SOS wrote. “Access to appropriate and adequate healthcare is critical to our community. We are excited and thankful that as an organization, we are able to think outside the box to serve the most vulnerable and marginalized who are struggling right now. We hope this will help reduce overdose rates in our region, and provide opportunity for recovery and improved public health and wellness.”

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