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Fayette County methadone clinic scrambles to deal with spike in clients

Renatta Signorini
| Tuesday, May 3, 2016, 11:00 p.m.
Polaris Renewal Services, located along Route 51 South in Perry Township photographed on Tuesday, May 3, 2016.
Evan R. Sanders | Tribune-Review
Polaris Renewal Services, located along Route 51 South in Perry Township photographed on Tuesday, May 3, 2016.

State police will monitor safety concerns at a methadone treatment clinic in Fayette County until an influx of patients and traffic dies down, which officials said could occur in the next couple days.

Security guards could be an option for Polaris Renewal Services in Perry Township to handle a sharp spike in clients that resulted from another clinic unexpectedly closing over the weekend, forcing hundreds of people to find a new provider, according to Dr. Mark Fuller, director of Value Behavioral Health of Pennsylvania.

“This was not a planned situation,” he told township supervisors and residents Tuesday during a supervisors meeting.

The influx of clients resulted in dozens of cars parked on nearby grass and alongside Route 51 on Monday and Tuesday so people could get to the clinic just north of Perryopolis, said Supervisor A.J. Boni. Up to 60 people waited in the parking lot each morning to get inside the building, he said.

The stretch of highway is prone to vehicle collisions, even without the added traffic, he said.

“We've had numerous accidents through that corridor over the years as it is,” Boni said. “It's just a ticking time bomb.”

A federal bankruptcy judge on Friday ordered Addiction Specialists Inc. of North Union to close upon expiration of its state license, according to Fuller and Jason Snyder, spokesman for the state Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs.

“Addiction Specialists Inc.'s provisional license to provide drug addiction treatment services expired on April 30 and was not renewed,” Snyder said.

Federal investigators raided Addiction Specialists in October, and its operators were indicted and accused of illegally dispensing narcotics, as well as health care fraud.

As a result, Polaris has seen 300 new patients, in addition to its 300 existing clients, Fuller said. Polaris is the only methadone clinic in Fayette County.

Methadone is used to treat opiate addiction.

Value Behavioral Health, which administers behavioral health contracts for Fayette County, had been planning to move Addiction Specialists' clients to other clinics over a three-month period after the indictments, Fuller said. But with the abrupt closure, that plan went haywire, he said.

“Polaris didn't ask for this,” he said. “They're cooperative, but they're stunned.”

Fuller told supervisors and residents that in the coming days Polaris will use gravel to expand its parking lot to accommodate more vehicles. Also, as new clients complete an initial evaluation, which can take two hours, fewer people will be waiting outside, and the turnaround will be quicker for people coming in simply for their methadone. That typically takes about five minutes, he said.

Security guards at the clinic are an option that Fuller said he plans to discuss with Polaris. The guards could direct clients safely out of the parking lot and reinforce that they cannot cross two lanes of southbound traffic to make a left turn to head north.

Plans that could take longer to implement include opening another site in Fayette County, which Polaris officials are in the process of doing, Fuller said. Expansion plans for the Perry Township facility are in the works.

Fuller said he has asked workers to identify clients who live outside the county and direct them to find a provider in their home county.

Traffic and the line could diminish by Friday, he said. Next week will be “closer to normal,” he said.

“We're going to put a lot of trust in you, I guess,” Boni said.

“Understood,” Fuller replied.

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-837-5374 or rsignorini@tribweb.com.

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