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Dr. Adam Duckett is heading up East Hill Family Medical's new addiction medicine services.

Deaths from alcohol, drugs and violence across the U.S. have recently been mapped out by researchers who have found that troubling patterns of despair have worsened in recent years. Despair, defined as the absolute bottom of an emotional state, can lead to substance abuse and addiction. There is some good news: Deaths from alcohol abuse, suicide and violence are down. The bad news is that this positive trend is overshadowed by a remarkable 600-percent increase in drug overdose deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2016 nearly 64,000 people died of drug overdoses in America.

I read with great interest Robert Harding’s article addressing the $1.3 trillion spending bill just passed by Congress and signed by the president that includes much-needed billions of dollars to address the opioid epidemic. This spending plan includes $415 million for the Health Resources and Services Administration, which oversees community health centers, including the 65 community health centers in New York state. Community health centers are a key component to our health care system, delivering comprehensive, culturally competent and high-quality primary care. CHCs also have the unique opportunity to provide mental health and substance abuse services to patients within the primary care setting — a setting where people are often most comfortable, and a place where patients who wouldn’t otherwise seek or have access to treatment can receive it. In this part of central New York, East Hill Family Medical is your community health center.

East Hill recognizes that addiction is a chronic illness that requires a continuum of support services and lifelong management. As a problem-solver in our community, East Hill understands that addressing such a crisis requires a multitude of interventions anchored to the community. People must have access to the care and services they need for sustained recovery, and East Hill stands ready to provide these services.

Research shows that medicines commonly used to treat opioid addiction, such as suboxone and methadone, cut mortality among opioid addiction patients by half or more — making them the traditional gold standard in opioid addiction care. Mortality, though, can be the result of addiction, the worst outcome of failed treatment. Reductions in overdose deaths here in Cayuga County can also be attributed to the proliferation of Narcan; that does not mean fewer people addicted. Though traditional treatment approaches using suboxone and methadone have worked, patients in these regimens remain addicted, just not to heroin. Dr. Adam Duckett, East Hill Family Medical’s addiction medicine specialist and chief medical officer, warns that use of these traditional treatments could, for some, be contributing to the problem. “I do think suboxone can work for some people and have in fact seen it work for some people. But conceptually I feel we are trading one addiction for another,” Duckett said. As the Cayuga County coroner, Duckett has seen people who have died from suboxone use, as suboxone does have the potential to be abused.

At East Hill, Duckett and licensed mental health counselor Jessica Carson work closely to individually help patients manage their addiction. An integrative approach that addresses one’s physical, emotional and mental health problems that you find in primary care is critical to care coordination and long-term success. Vivitrol, a once-monthly injection that helps prevent relapse to opioid dependence, is also available. “Vivitrol is a non-addictive alternative that blocks cravings and one’s ability to get high," Duckett said. Unlike suboxone and methadone, it is impossible to get high from Vivitrol. The treatment has no street value, is rendered under the supervision of a physician, and has significant demonstrated success, particularly when combined with counseling and other traditional adjunct therapies, and in the future may very well be the new gold standard in addiction treatment.

Opiate addiction is an epidemic, far outpacing the HIV epidemic of the 1980s. Federal and state funding is important but without concerted efforts at the community level, we can expect a lot more people to die. A forecast by STAT, a national publication, concluded that as many as 650,000 people will die over the next 10 years from opioid overdoses — more than the entire city of Baltimore. East Hill, your community health center, is committed to being part of the solution, helping this epidemic by making addiction treatment accessible and destigmatized right here in our community. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, schedule an appointment to see Dr. Duckett at East Hill and take the first step toward a life without opiates. For convenience, Duckett sees patients from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Though you are free to walk in, appointments can be made by calling (315) 235-8477 prompt No. 4.

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Danielle Collier is the director of marketing and communications at East Hill Family Medical, a federally qualified health center offering dental, reproductive health, internal medicine and pediatric services. Located at 144 Genesee St., Auburn, the center can be contacted at or (315) 253-8477.