Special to The Enterprise
Martinsville Treatment Services officially celebrated its opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony Tuesday at 8500 A.L. Philpott Highway in Martinsville.
Before the ceremony, several speakers highlighted the need for the treatment center, which comes at a crucial time, because drug overdoses were deadlier than ever in 2021, according to provisional data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2020, an average of four Virginians died of an opioid overdose daily.
David Cassise, Regional Director for Pinnacle Treatment Centers in Virginia, welcomed the approximately 20 community leaders and healthcare professionals, as well as local media, in attendance. He began by describing why he came to Pinnacle from a competitor, focusing on how important it was to him that Pinnacle serves the community more and takes care of the population.
Pinnacle is “truly patient centered,” Cassise said. “A big thing for me is making sure we are taking care of the patients in the community.
“Every person that comes to Pinnacle can see that the philosophy of patient care comes from the top down. Joe Pritchard, our CEO, is in recovery himself. His passion rings through all the way down to the local level at each community we serve,” Cassise said.
He commended the Martinsville community for welcoming the treatment services facility with open arms, recognizing that there was a great need for it.
“The main reason we are here is because of the opioid epidemic,” Cassise said. “We’ve been talking about the epidemic for many years. The further back you go, you can see there’s been a steady increase in overdose deaths. In 2018, we started to see a decline in this increase rate but then the pandemic hit.” Cassise described how the improvements that had been made were eradicated, and mental health issues soared, along with suicide and overdose death rates. The “focus is now on the causes of addiction, that’s why we are here, to help all those individuals.”
After introducing Melissa Brown, the Regional Community Engagement Administrator at the facility, Cassise said her position “navigates the patient.” He emphasized how her role as navigator is vital. “If we can’t serve a patient, or if a patient lives on the other side of town, she helps with that.”
Brown, he said, identifies patients’ needs and finds solutions to those needs as well.
Bishop Lorenzo Hall, pastor and founder of Reach Out Apostolic Tabernacle Church, was called upon to bless the building. Before leading the room in prayer, Hall, a graduate of Jacksonville Theological Seminary in Jacksonville, Florida, emphasized how much the treatment center is needed in Martinsville.
“A lot of people need help, and the church can’t do it all, government can’t really do it all, but we can all work together.” He cautioned against people being critical and encouraged them to “reach out and help somebody as best as we can. There’s still more to do, and people can sit back and criticize but until we stick our hand in to do something about it, things will continue to escalate and get worse.”
Sharon Shepherd, Deputy Director of the Martinsville Henry County Chamber of Commerce, welcomed Martinsville Treatment Services to the community on behalf of the chamber and C-PEG.
Nicholas Cawby opened his portion of the program by echoing Cassise’s remarks about the Martinsville community’s cooperation. The community has been “fantastic, especially when it comes to understanding what the community is facing.” He said there was a lack in the level of resistance the agency faced in other localities, and the community understands why treatment is so essential.
“We’re a medication assisted treatment program. What that means is we treat opioid use disorder with a combination of medication and counseling services. The patients that we have start off coming here daily to us and they receive methadone or buprenorphine (suboxone) – but the more important aspect of that is the counseling services,” he said.
Cawby introduced Asia Hall, the clinical director, and Samantha Hall, both counselors at the facility.
“We reached 63 patients today, which is amazing. That’s 63 people who are now on that path to recovery. Those two ladies are a big part of that and they’re doing incredible work with our patients.”
Cawby said the services offered in Martinsville differ from other treatment programs that are usually shorter (most are either 30, 60 or 90 days). The center’s programs last between 2-3 years, which “really gives us the opportunity of witnessing the changes they make in that time period, which are incredible.”
Other staff members at the center include physician Rex Biedenbender and nursing supervisor Lisa Jensen. The medical staff are key to the patient’s treatment, ensuring that medications are addressing addiction symptoms to facilitate the counseling.
The two receptionists are Taylor Galyean and Kim Cassell, Cawby said, adding their roles also are important because they are the “first faces the people see when they come in here.”
The program concluded with a candlelight moment of silence to honor lives lost to overdose, followed by an invitation from Cassise for anyone in attendance to take part in a Narcan training session. Narcan is a medication used for the emergency treatment of known or suspected opioid overdose, and it is available by prescription in Virginia. It also can be obtained from the local health department. Narcan was distributed to those who attended the training session so that they could save a life in the event of an overdose.
Before the program began, Cassise explained that for many people, opioid addiction began with prescription pills when doctors frequently prescribed pain medicine. That practice continued until more was known about the potential for addiction to prescription pain pills.
Cassise said when patients could no longer get prescriptions, “they started to get withdrawals and started to hurt really bad. Without being able to get their hands on prescription opiates, the next thing that was cheaper and easier to get was heroin.” Heroin use dramatically increased, and the next problem on the rise was Fentanyl.
“Fentanyl is 100 times more powerful than heroin. It’s cheap as well, just as readily available as anything else. When people have significant dependence and high tolerance, a little fentanyl does more than a lot of heroin,” Cassise said, and emphasized that most opioid overdose deaths include Fentanyl.
When asked about treatment for other substances besides opioids, Cawby and Cassise said that although a patient must have an opiate disorder to receive treatment at the facility, most patients have other drug disorders as well as mental health problems. This is why the center partners with other agencies in the community, such as the Community Service Board, SOVAH, Southstone and others.
Pinnacle operates in nine states, offering about 125 different programs. It serves an estimated 35,000 patients daily.
Martinsville Treatment Services accepts most medical insurances, as well as Medicaid and Medicare.
For more information, assistance is available 24/7 by calling the facility at (276) 226-9925.