BOONE — After opening its doors in 2002 to offer alcohol and drug addiction treatment services, the Boone location of the McLeod Addictive Disease Center will be closing as of July 1, according to Andrea Groves, program manager of McLeod’s Monroe and Boone locations.
The McLeod Addictive Disease Center offers medication-assisted treatment — such as methadone — to assist those who are opioid dependent. McLeod President Mary Ward said it was the first clinic to offer these services in Watauga upon opening.
Groves said the Boone center is serving around 150 clients currently, which is on the lower end of the spectrum of clients it has seen in past years. Ward said the Boone location employed 12 staff members, and McLeod is working with these employees to begin the transition to other facilities or movement to other internal opportunities.
“We by no means want (the closing) to cause any stress, harm or interference with anyone’s recovery efforts,” Groves said. “As a way of complying with McLeod’s mission to serve and help clients get well, it was a decision that was made that we found was best for McLeod as a whole. It’s not something we wanted to happen.”
Ward said the organization’s board of trustees made the decision to close the facility at the board’s May 14 meeting. The decision comes two years after the organization started to keep an eye on the Boone location, and started to see a decline in the amount of clients the office was serving.
“Over time as the opioid crisis began to take root, more and more providers began opening locations,” Ward said. “We began watching the number of patients receiving care in Boone and that number began to drop.”
The board made the “difficult decision” to consolidate the Boone location with its locations that are nearby, Ward said.
McLeod has other locations in Charlotte, Concord, Gastonia, Hickory, Lenoir, Marion, Monroe and Statesville. Ward said McLeod is serving 3,000 patients at the other eight MAT facilities.
When it comes to MAT, the process tends to be a year or longer for patients, Ward said. She added that McLeod conducts annual assessments with patients to gauge satisfaction with its services. From these assessments, Ward said McLeod gathered that 96.7 percent of patients indicated that their quality of life was better after receiving services from the organization, and 97.1 percent of patients would recommend McLeod for treatment.
Patients that were being served at the Boone location and want to continue treatment with McLeod are encouraged to seek treatment at the Marion, Lenoir, Hickory or Statesville locations, Ward said. She added that the other facilities “stand ready to serve anyone from Watauga County who needs care.”
“We are focused (on making) sure that continuity of care is provided whether a patient chooses to stay with us at one of our other locations or move to another provider,” Ward said.
Ward said she does not foresee any negative impacts coming from the closure of the Boone location of the McLeod Center.
Jennifer Greene, the health director at AppHealthCare — the regional health department — said she thinks the closure of the center will impact access to treatment. Greene added that she was hopeful that the community can come together to work through challenges people may face.
McLeod is working with individuals who are seeking local treatment after the Boone location’s closing to get services through Stepping Stone of Boone or Mountain Health Solutions in North Wilkesboro, Ward said.
Christa Capua, the clinical director at Stepping Stone of Boone, said the facility is already receiving phone calls from new patients in light of the McLeod Center closing. She said Stepping Stone was notified by the State Opioid Treatment Authorities of McLeod’s closing, and it wanted to assure community members that they can still receive MAT services at Stepping Stone.
Stepping Stone is also a MAT program that uses medications to treat opioid abuse disorder. Capua said Stepping Stone tries to demonstrate that methadone is an extremely useful, helpful and effective medication when used properly. Stepping Stone combines its MAT with intensive individual counseling and referrals to other community agencies that the patient needs to get back on their feet.
Stepping Stone plans to hire a number of new positions and expand its patient intake hours. While Stepping Stone’s patient population fluctuates throughout the year, the organization is currently serving 230 patients. Capua said Stepping Stone hopes to expand to be able to take on around 100 more patients if needed.
Stepping Stone opened around 2007 to 2008, Capua said. Five full-time therapists — with the hope to hire more — assist patients at Stepping Stone in addition to a team of nurses, nurse practitioners and a medical director.
“We are a very family friendly (and) safe community that’s ready to help anyone who needs it without any judgment, bias or shame,” Capua said. “We’re happy to accommodate anyone who needs help.”