Sojourner doubles size of men’s drug rehab program

Non-profit agency now has 82 residential beds in Butler County.

The battle against opiate addiction in Butler County is heating up as more residential treatment beds have become available.

Sojourner Recovery Services, a non-profit agency providing substance abuse treatment to women, men and adolescents, has just added 12 additional beds to its men’s residential program, said Scott Gehring, president and chief executive officer of Sojourner.

Sojourner now has 82 beds available in Butler County — 24 beds for men; 42 for women; and 16 for adolescents.

“I want it to be as easy to get into treatment as it is jail,” Gehring said. “The face of addiction has changed; it’s not an urban problem but our neighbors, children, loved ones.”

The number of people being treated for opioid abuse or dependence has skyrocketed 163 percent in recent years — from 9,275 in 2004 to 24,393 in 2011, according to the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (ODMHAS).

Gehring said that rising trend has been mirrored locally over the past five years, with his agency recording a 30 percent to 40 percent increase in the number of cases related to opioids.

Sojourner serves about 700 patients each year, including 350 patients in the residential-only programs. Gehring said 89 percent of cases managed at Sojourner are now for heroin or other opiate addiction.

Gehring’s long-term goal is to “aggressively increase capacity” to 110 beds for the residential program. He’s currently working on lease agreements to open satellite locations in Oxford, Middletown and West Chester Twp.

Gehring said while Sojourner has primarily served the female population over the past 30 years, the need for male services is only rising. He said the recent expansion of Medicaid in Ohio has allowed more men to seek out treatment.

Young males, ages 25-34, are at the highest risk for a fatal heroin overdose, according to ODMHAS. From 1999 to 2011, Ohio’s death rate from unintentional drug overdoses has increased 440 percent.

Sojourner’s substance abuse program is multi-tiered, with the neediest patients starting with a 90-day inpatient residential program; and then tapering down from there to intensive outpatient services three to four times a week or outpatient services two times a week, according to Gehring.

“Addiction is a life-long disease; you’re in recovery for life,” Gehring said.

The rehabilitation treatment consists of several options, including medically-assisted treatment using suboxone, vivitrol or subutex to counteract the opioid dependence, as well as cognitive behavioral therapies.

Gehring said there’s currently a waiting time of two to four weeks for women and up to six months for men. He said the addition of 12 more beds for men will cut that waiting time down to two to three months.

There are an additional 48 beds available for addiction treatment in Butler County at the Beckett Springs hospital that opened last July in West Chester Twp.

As well, the Butler County Care Facility is working toward becoming a sub-acute detox center to medically-assist patients through withdrawal before moving to Sojourner for the rehabilitation, said Chuck Demidovich, administrator for Butler County Care Facility.

Demidovich said there’s still some legislative pieces to get through before the nursing home can become a detox center. The detox would last five to seven days, and the nursing home will have the capacity for 10-20 people.

“This is something the county needs to do,” Demidovich said, citing already 50 drug-related deaths in the county this year.