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Franciscan Health hospital in Dyer

Franciscan Health hospital in Dyer is now offerings medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction.

A Northwest Indiana hospital recently expanded its services for the treatment of opioid addiction.

The Franciscan Health hospital in Dyer has started offering medication-assisted treatment for people dependent on heroin and opioid painkillers.

"We know there's a massive need statewide, nationally even," said Gregg Pantale, director of grant administration for the Franciscan Health Foundation.

Earlier this year, the Franciscan Health Foundation received a three-year, $1.57 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The money went toward expanding medication-assisted treatment at Franciscan facilities in Lake and Marion counties.

Prevention Insights, a program of the Indiana University School of Public Health in Bloomington, has been assisting with implementation, evaluation and data analysis.

The Dyer hospital prescribes mostly buprenorphine, an opioid-replacement drug commonly known as Suboxone, but also naltrexone, an opioid-blocker typically given in a monthly shot called Vivitrol. The facility will not, however, offer methadone, the prescription of which is done at clinics that have to be authorized by the state legislature.

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The treatment is open to patients on Medicaid, the state health insurance program for the poor and disabled.

Patients have to be in the hospital's intensive-outpatient therapy program, or IOP, which is now from 8:45 a.m. to noon Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, but is expanding to the evenings beginning Oct. 1.

Joan Showalter, the behavioral health administrative director for Franciscan Health hospital Indianapolis, said these types of group therapies "help clients adjust not just to the substance abuse issues they have but what is so often underlying it: the mental health issues. A large percentage of clients have experienced some trauma in their life."

People who graduate from that program can continue seeing a psychiatrist and an individual outpatient therapist.

"For our doctor to continue prescribing, (patients) need to maintain some level of counseling," said Sue Heaton, manager of psych therapy services for Franciscan Health in Dyer.

She noted that medication-assisted treatment is effective because "if you can try to keep patients engaged in treatment, at any level, you have more of an opportunity to help them hopefully get to recovery, by giving them the comfort they need so they don't have to go into withdrawal."

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Health Reporter

Giles is the health reporter for The Times, covering the business of health care as well as consumer and public health. He previously wrote about health for the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World. He is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.