WOONSOCKET, RI (WPRI) – Since the summer, a mobile medical unit has been helping people with substance use disorder in Rhode Island.
CODAC Behavioral Health Care mobile unit is a 27ft RV that sets up shop in Woonsocket three and a half hours a day, six days a week, providing suboxone and methadone to people in need.
The need is obvious.
According to RI Department of Health data435 people died of an overdose in 2021. Of these, 65% involved illicit drugs.
CODAC has obtained approval from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to distribute the drugs to mobile treatment sites. President and CEO Linda Hurley told 12 News that the mobile unit was profitable, saying it needed just over $300,000 to get up and running.
“If you think about the cost to build a building or the cost to build into an existing building, how much more? I mean, it’s just that there’s huge value for money with these units,” explained Hurley.
More importantly, Hurley said the mobile unit is a convenient alternative for people who can’t get to a brick-and-mortar medical building, either because of the cost of transportation or because they feel unwell. comfortable visiting this type of establishment.
“Access issues are so important right now,” she added. “Individuals need treatment when they need it, because if they don’t get it, they could just die.”
John Hayes drives the RV into the Community Care Alliance parking lot in Woonsocket, parks it, and presses a button that expands the narrow space into a mobile clinic. The vehicle can be found there from approximately 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Saturday.
“I see a lot of people looking to help themselves … get out of trouble,” Hayes said.
A patient named Jason told 12 News he suffered from an opioid addiction for about 15 years after being prescribed OxyContin for an injury. He said he has been using the mobile unit since arriving in Woonsocket a few months ago, receiving treatment six days a week.
“It stops opioid cravings,” Jason said.
Patients on the mobile unit are assigned a specific number, which tells a nurse how much methadone or suboxone they should receive. Both are legal substitutes for opioids like heroin, oxycontin or fentanyl.
Caitlin Connor, clinical supervisor at CODAC, explained how the drug works.
“In many of these situations, it allows people to function normally on a day-to-day basis, to do things that everyone does every day: go to work and not feel sick, not have food cravings,” said Connor.
“It allows people, in certain situations, to get their children back, to avoid legal problems, to be able to live a normal life,” she added.
Connor said having counselors, case managers and medical staff in the same setting provides a different kind of experience.
“Everybody knows everybody,” she said. “They know the patients, we know everything about them and we know everything about all the patients, which is rare in a situation like this.”
Hoping to expand access, Hurley said CODAC recently applied for funding to get a second vehicle, with the goal of having at least three on the road.