Four years ago, 20 to 24 adults would show up each week seeking drug treatment for the first time at The LCADA Way in Lorain.
Today, that number has exploded to 40 or 50 per week.
“We often find ourselves with waiting lists,” said Thomas Stuber, who is eager to see the old Golden Acres Nursing Home turned into an addiction recovery center.
The system has been flooded with people wrestling with heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, and other drugs — and Stuber, the president and CEO of The LCADA Way, is in a unique position to know just how much of a toll the epidemic has had on Lorain County.
“We’re seeing something that is much more addictive, in terms of a drug, than anything we’ve ever seen before,” he said. “I’ve been in this field for 38 years and have never seen anything like it.”
In late March, the Ohio capital budget was signed by Gov. John Kasich. It included $500,000 to turn the former county nursing home in Amherst Township into Recovery One of Lorain County.
For Stuber and others in his field, Recovery One can’t come fast enough.
The opioid epidemic is worsening. The demand for services continues to rise. The severity of addiction is also requiring more intense and longer treatment.
Common practice back in 2014 was to complete treatment in two months, including after-care. Now we know it takes at least 35 weeks just for the brain to stabilize, said Stuber, which means we’re seeing people stay in treatment six to eight months.
Ohio’s Medicaid expansion — a dicey political issue backed by Kasich but opposed by many of his fellow Republicans in the General Assembly — has proven a blessing.
The expansion helped ensure health insurance coverage for more than 700,000 low-income adults across the state and cashed in on $638 million in federal matching funds.
Since roughly 70 percent of those with opioid addiction cannot work due to their dependency, and since eligibility is now based on income, many qualify for Medicaid. That’s saved lives, Stuber said.
Medicaid will help run day-to-day operations at Recovery One. Other funding would come through the Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services Board of Lorain County, state grants, and federal grants.
Stuber said the Nord Family Foundation and the Community Foundation of Lorain County have also “been angels in terms of channeling funds to address the drug epidemic.”
But exactly what the treatment center will offer remains up in the air.
At the top of Stuber’s priority list is detox for local residents, an in-county men’s residential site, and a methadone clinic.
A residential site for women already exists. The Key, run by The LCADA Way, has 16 beds and will soon expand to 30; there is no such offering for men.
Heroin isn’t the only problem the site needs to address. Health experts are seeing an uptick now in cocaine and methamphetamine use in the county. Dealers are combining drugs. Marijuana and alcohol are also issues.
Recovery One would be about treating addiction on all those fronts.
“It will not take us very long to mobilize the staff and get key operations in place. The big issue will be getting the facility ready,” Stuber said.
The Golden Acres building needs roof work and outside tuck pointing. It has an inefficient boiler. Elevators are a concern. And the whole building needs a good scrubbing.
None of those aspects will require large-scale construction.
“As we walked through, those of us who were the dreamers could envision it, as far as what could be in this corner or what could be in that room,” said Stuber. “It could be a terrific facility.”
The health experts in charge of developing the treatment center will also have to do some work to ease the fears of neighbors.
When The Key moved into the former Sprenger Nursing Home in Lorain, there was a lot of grumbling that jilted boyfriends and drug dealers would come sniffing around, Stuber said.
“What’s happened is just the opposite. We have a wonderful relationship with the police department. We have cameras inside and outside making certain the facility is safe. And the police department, if there’s anything shaky, they’re there within two minutes at most.”
“I think we’ve actually become kind of the anchor for that community. And I think that some of the same things will be noted when we move into Amherst,” he said.
When people seek out addiction recovery, they “are the sons and spouses and daughters that we wanted them to be. Being in recovery leads people to becoming responsible,” Stuber said.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.