TOMS RIVER – It was an occasion to launch new hope and help for those afflicted with addiction as public officials and representatives of a new opioid treatment center cut the ribbon to officially open the new facility earlier this month.
The new Toms River clinic is located at 751 Route 37 West. It will offer individualized treatment plans, medication, counseling, and toxicology services. It is the first Crossroads opioid treatment program in the state. Patients seeking treatment services can walk-in without an appointment. The facility accepts Medicaid and most major commercial insurance plans.
Crossroads staff includes doctors, nurses, practitioners, counselors, and other professionals providing treatment options to help combat the growing Opioid Epidemic, and to help those on the road to recovery.
“In 2018 we had about 187 overdose fatalities,” Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer said. “I’ve said from the beginning you can’t arrest your way out of this problem. All our municipal police departments are equipped with Narcan. We welcome Crossroads here. Through the partnerships we’ve made through the Ocean County Freeholders, those numbers are going to go down this year. We have tremendous organizations in Ocean County and hopefully you will be one of our community partners to help educate people. Since I’ve been prosecutor, we have stepped up on the education component.”
“Like many communities throughout the nation, Toms River has been hit hard by the opioid crisis,” Mayor Thomas Kelaher said. “The opening of the Crossroads opioid treatment program is a critical step forward for our community in the fight against the opioid epidemic and helping our friends, family members and neighbors get the care they need to overcome addiction.
“It is a serious problem in our society, particularly here in Toms River. I used to be the Ocean County Prosecutor and law enforcement can’t solve this problem alone and just arresting people doesn’t do the trick. You have to cure them and it is hard to find treatment facilities. A lot of people have sat in jails waiting for beds so the more the merrier as far as I am concerned,” Kelaher said.
The mayor cited some statistics saying so far this year, “we have had 201 OD related calls, 30 deaths and we have two more months to go and we’ve employed Narcan 144 times.” Narcan is a nasal spray that counteracts the life-threatening effects of an opioid overdose. It was developed for first responders, as well as family, friends, and caregivers – with no medical training required.
“New Jersey is very good at publishing data and sharing it publicly so we can be attuned to the problem which allowed our Crossroads team to pinpoint where the areas of need are and we did identify Ocean County and specifically Toms River as an area we felt needed some treatment,” said Pierce Wylie, the director of Business Development for the center.
“The Toms River location is the first of several new clinics that will open in the state within the next year. Our goal is to make treatment accessible to the residents of Ocean County,” he said.
“It is very sad that we have to have centers like this but we are very fortunate to have you come here to Ocean County,” Freeholder Director Virginia Haines said.
“We tell two things to patients we are here to give you hope and to help you. Hope that there is a better day ahead and help to get you there,” said Anna Gaddy, vice president of Clinical Operations.
Kevin Moore, director of integrated medicine, spoke about the stigma involved in drug treatment. “I wear a red ribbon to talk about the last public health threat which was the AIDs crisis of the 80s and 90s. Many people were dying, no one knew what to do and there was no effective treatment and there was a lot of turmoil.”
Like the AIDs crisis of the past, Moore said more of a public health conversation needs to occur concerning the current opioid crisis. “I wear a black jacket for all of the deaths. Toms River is rated one of the safest communities in America and yet you heard the numbers. It is everywhere. People are dying needlessly when we have effective treatment but there is not general awareness about this.”
Staff member Michael Duke, the director of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Pharmacy Compliance provided a tour of the facility which includes two full time nurses, a program director, and two counselors. One counselor will service 50 patients each. The facility has a drug screening laboratory, rooms for counseling and a group therapy room. There is also a dosing room where patients are provided medication. “We are heavily regulated by the DEA,” Duke said.
Headquartered in Greenville, SC, Crossroads Treatment Centers provides outpatient treatment for opioid use disorder. Crossroads is also the parent company of ARS Treatment Centers. The two brands operate more than 90 addiction treatment facilities in 10 states serving over 22,000 patients. Crossroads plans to open more than 30 new treatment facilities, under both the Crossroads and ARS brands, by the end of 2020.