A new drug addiction treatment facility has opened in the East End of Louisville to help combat the region’s growing heroin epidemic. The clinic will include medication-assisted treatment for patients utilizing buprenorphine — a drug that many experts in the field hail as a vital tool in the treatment of opioid addiction.
The Cleanse Clinic recently opened at 9720 Park Plaza Ave. — just behind the upscale Paddock Shops on Brownsboro Road — and will feature a five-week intensive outpatient program that combines both therapy and medication prescriptions under one roof for patients battling drug addiction. Hanan Buridi, the founder and developer of the facility, tells Insider Louisville there are long waiting lists for patients in the region attempting to enter addiction treatment centers, and the Cleanse Clinic will offer a holistic approach to treatment with evidence-based practices and experienced board-certified physicians.
Buridi says there aren’t enough providers offering medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to meet the growing number of people seeking help for their opioid addiction, and many that do offer a fragmented system where patients are prescribed buprenorphine (the main component of the common brand name drug Suboxone) at one clinic but do their therapy at another — though the Cleanse Clinic will combine both in their facility.
“We provide Suboxone to patients who have had a long history of opioid dependance and abuse, and we also do their therapy as well, so it’s an integrated program,” says Buridi. “So if anyone wants to be in our Suboxone program, they must also do the therapy with us. It’s a five-week intensive outpatient program that was developed by board certified psychiatrists based on evidence-based practices… that’s what we pride ourselves on.”
While most addiction treatment programs in America rely on an abstinence-only 12-steps philosophy, the Obama administration and Congress have enacted reforms this year to combat the opioid epidemic by expanding access to MAT and Suboxone — citing over a decade’s worth of research showing that such medication combined with intensive therapy provides good results and lowers the chance of a relapse that can result in an overdose and death.
“People often don’t understand this, but Suboxone is the most advanced thing that’s come out for opioid addiction treatment,” says Buridi. “You’re talking about the combination of an agonist and antagonist substance that’s really scientifically proven to ween people off. It’s the best alternative to get people off it phase by phase.”
Buridi cited studies showing that relapse rates for patients in conventional treatment programs is as high as 95 percent, and while he knows that not everyone in MAT programs will be successful, they offer the best chance to dramatically lower that number. While most abstinence-only programs are vehemently against medication like Suboxone — viewing it as just another addictive opioid to replace heroin — local providers such as Seven Counties Services and the Morton Center have made the leap this year to embrace MAT and Suboxone, citing the overwhelming evidence of research.
“There’s a lot of philosophies that kind of go against each other, but our goal is not to say something is wrong,” says Buridi. “But Einstein said that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result, and we need to try something different. And we believe that combining the medical, therapeutic, social and vocational aspects integrated into our program is scientifically proven to be effective.”
In addition to providing a vocational program for patients who are struggling to maintain employment due to the struggles with drug abuse, the Cleanse Clinic also will offer diversion program classes for those with DUI convictions.
Most physicians who prescribe Suboxone operate on a cash-only basis instead of accepting private insurance and Medicaid, citing poor reimbursement rates and delayed payments from insurance companies, as well as state regulations barring physicians from being Medicaid providers if they charge cash for office visits. However, Buridi says they are in the process of being credentialed to accept insurance and Medicaid, hoping that this will be approved next month.
Buridi tells IL that while being insurance-based is a challenge with low reimbursement rates, he is confident that his own background in health care finance and the clinic’s diversity of programs and services under one roof will make the business financially sustainable, whereas others have tried to do so and failed. Citing figures estimating that up to 75 percent of patients seeking addiction treatment are on Medicare or Medicaid, he says his clinic’s model aims to give such patients a more affordable treatment option than paying in cash.
“We’re in it to make a big difference and provide these services to the masses and take Medicaid, take the insurance and offer the therapy at our location to take the stigma out of it,” says Buridi. “Our goal is to make everything financially feasible, because I think even with the low reimbursement rates you can make this work, and having all of the services combined makes it financially feasible to do.”
Due to new federal rules enacted by the Obama administration that go into effect on Aug. 5, Buridi says the clinic should be able to prescribe Suboxone to up to 275 patients at a time, instead of the previous cap of 100 patients for doctors with a federal waiver.
Buridi says he is passionate about this issue due to losing a close friend due to drug addiction, and hopes the Cleanse Clinic will provide another key tool for Louisville to combat its heroin epidemic — as addiction and overdoses have begun to rapidly increase in the city and touch every socioeconomic group.
“You have a quarter of a million young Americans dead from this in the past couple of years,” says Buridi. “It’s killing rich people, it’s killing poor people, it’s killing everybody. Addiction is not just a problem for lower-income people.”