South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Austin Vaught
Contributing Writer 

Answers sought about new addiction facility on Brownsville Road

 

April 10, 2018



Carrick residents are demanding more communication and community investment from the addiction facility Accessible Recovery Services (ARS) after it opened a new location on the corner of Brownsville Road and Nobles Lane.

The facility’s procedures and policies were shared, along with an abundance of community feedback, during a panel discussion that included several community stakeholders at last week’s Carrick/Overbrook Block Watch meeting.

Among the panel participants were ARS CEO Brett McGennis, Pennsylvania state Rep. Harry Readshaw, councilman Anthony Coghill and multiple representatives from the Mayor’s Office.

According to Mr. Readshaw, the panel discussion was scheduled after his office fielded several complaints about the addiction facility’s operation in the community.

“I think our obligation to the community is to bring somebody here and have them explain exactly what is going on there, how it came to be, and what the objectives are in terms of rehabilitation.,” Mr. Readshaw said.

Mr. Readshaw also introduced Mr. McGennis, who spoke in detail about the organization’s treatment program which involves the use of the Suboxone drug Buprenorphine.

Mr. McGennis explained Buprenorphine saturates the brain’s receptors in a way that limits opioid absorption. As a result, the drug has a “ceiling effect,” and increasing the quantity does not impact a user’s high.

However, many residents expressed concerns about the effectiveness of trading one drug for another and some are worried it will further increase opioid addiction or drug activity in the neighborhood.

Mr. McGennis explained ARS requires all patients to undergo toxicology testing each visit and attend at least one behavioral therapy session per month. Patients who miss these appointments are not automatically permitted to return.

“We want to make sure they’re committed to the addiction recovery process as much as we are,” Mr. McGennis said.

He also reiterated ARS is not a “cash practice” as he believes those facilities promote crime. ARS does not store medication on site, and all patients are required to have insurance.

“We separate ourselves from cash doctors,” Mr. McGennis said. “When you come in, you’re paying your copay for your insurance.”

He went on to explain all ARS doctors are independently credentialed and go through a rigorous process to become in-network for insurance providers. ARS requires this process to ensure doctors are practicing for “the right reasons.”

Another community concern is the location of the clinic and the safety of children who wait for the bus at the corner of Brownsville Road and Nobles Lane.

According to Mr. McGennis, the Carrick location has a strict policy against loitering and serves patients by appointment only. The clinic is only open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends. He also added they tinted the windows of the location to ensure privacy.

A resident in attendance asked how ARS prevents patients from selling prescriptions or visiting multiple clinics and “pharmacy-hopping.”

In response, Mr. McGennis explained the organization has a very strict lost or stolen prescription policy. All patients are reviewed in the PA Prescription Drug Monitoring Program which allows doctors to see additional medications the patient has been prescribed.

Many in attendance expressed outrage at the lack of communication between ARS and the community. A resident also asked about the legal process an organization must go through to open an addiction recovery facility in a community.

Mr. Readshaw said the business must obtain an occupancy permit through the zoning department and the state then issues a practice permit based on the occupancy permit. He also confirmed ARS satisfied all the legal criteria prior to opening and also met with the Mayor’s Office prior to the community meeting.

“No Suboxone practice or addiction facility in PA is under more scrutiny and a microscope like we are,” Mr. McGennis said.

Several residents also asked how ARS is planning to contribute to the community. Mr. McGennis said the organization is always open to education and speaking engagements. ARS also sponsors a WeCan program which provides overdose training and NARCAN to local bars and restaurants.

“If the community has concerns and wants to be heard, we’re here to hear them,” Mr. McGennis said. “Our goal is to be here solving the problem with you and that’s why we’re here today.”

The next Carrick / Overbrook Block Watch meeting is May 7 in the Concord K5 Auditorium.

 

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