When Brack Jefferys and Brian Murphy opened Pisgah Recovery Services in Waynesville, they didn’t expect how quickly the coronavirus pandemic would change the way they do business.
The business provides services to those attempting to control their opioid addiction through medically-assisted treatment — specifically methadone. While it has been difficult to get the ball rolling at this unstable time, Jefferys said it is as essential as ever that they provide that service.
“Isolation is not good for anybody, and addicts in particular don’t do well with isolation,” he said.
The men opened the location earlier this year, just prior to the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic fallout. However, while other businesses, such as retail stores and restaurants had to close their doors, the services provided by Jefferys and Murphy were deemed essential. Murphy said business has indeed been steady, and changes in certain restrictions has made their jobs easier.
“During this time with COVID, the state has relaxed some of the rest on take-home doses so that patients don’t have to come to the facility as often as they otherwise would,” he said, adding that they are also providing patients with medicine lock boxes and Narcan.
Murphy said the business has been maximizing the use of telehealth appointments to reach people who have concerns about coming to the facility to offer other services, such as counseling.
“It’s really a time of innovation, and because we are a smaller agency, because the principal owners are on site, one of the things that has served our patients well we have the ability to adapt quickly to what has been a rapidly changing environment,” he said.
Business has been pretty good. Jefferys, who is in long-term recovery and has worked in the drug treatment business since 1983, said they were already close to breaking even, largely because they underestimated how many people are struggling with fentanyl addiction.
“I just want to really emphasize that most of the people that we are seeing come in, their preferred drug of choice is fentanyl masquerading as heroin,” he said, adding that methadone is better for people with a higher opioid tolerance.
Jefferys said what’s important about that is the enhanced effectiveness of methadone to treat fentanyl addiction versus suboxone, which has directed some folks who struggled with suboxone to give them a try.
“We don’t want someone who thinks that because suboxone didn’t work, nothing will work,” he said.
While some recovery centers that offer methadone or suboxone do so through Medicaid or health insurance, Pisgah Recovery Services offers a “pay-as-you-go,” approach beginning at a dollar a day for a month.
From there, patients can establish daily, weekly or monthly payment plans. While the cost of recovery could seem steep when it’s coming straight from patients’ pockets, Jefferys looks at it a different way.
“If they’re buying narcotics on the street daily, that’s hundreds of dollars,” Jefferys said, adding that they also provide counseling services, group therapy and even non-OB-GYN services for pregnant women.
Murphy said most in the community have been supportive, but they did meet some resistance early on and a few landlords didn’t even want to rent to them. But now that they’ve settled in, they said things have been going well, and their patients have generally felt comfortable coming in.
“We’re not treating criminals; we’re treating people with a disease,” Murphy said. “Our patients have a disease. I am diabetic. I have to take medication every day. If I don’t, my disease will progress. It’s the same kind of thing.”
“Methadone, when appropriately used, has a pretty good safety profile,” he added.
Jefferys said they maintain high standards that require regular drug tests for patients and that the presence of such a treatment facility benefits the community.
“For every dollar patients spend on treatment in a clinic, it saves Haywood County $7.46 in reduced criminality, child support, medical expenses and more,” he said.
It’s important for people to know treatment is available, even during the days of coronavirus, he stressed, noting the business is taking precautions to keep everyone safe and healthy.
Pisgah recovery services is located at 1637 South Main St. in Waynesville.