Central Virginia Health Services gets $167,000 grant to establish office-based integrated assistance for addicts

A medical group that operates three health centers in the Tri-City area has received a federal grant to establish an office-based opioid treatment, or OBOT, program at one of the Petersburg locations.

Central Virginia Health Services, a nonprofit headquartered in Buckingham County, received $167,000 to help staff the OBOT program at the Petersburg Health Care Alliance, said Sheena Mackenzie, the group's development director. It will be CVHS' first-ever effort at establishing an addiction treatment program in one of its clinics.

"It's very exciting," Mackenzie said.

The funding is part of a $3.4 million series of grants awarded to 21 nonprofit medical groups across Virginia. The grants are administered by the Department of Health and Human Services' Integrated Behavioral Services program, and are designed to help the clinics develop "wrap-around' services for opioid-addicted patients allowing them to get physical, emotional and mental treatment through one central location.

The Petersburg Health Care Alliance, now located on South Sycamore Street, is moving this fall to a larger space at 24 N. Union St. across from the Petersburg Multimodal Station. Mackenzie said the need for services that the clinic provides had outgrown the walls at the Sycamore Street location, and given the timing of the grant award for the OBOT program, makes the move even more necessary.

"We are going to be able to treat the whole person," Mackenzie said, "whether it's a mental health condition, [or] a physical health condition."

The grant will cover the salaries and benefits of the specialists who will run the OBOT.

CVHS operates 17 clinics in central and eastern Virginia. In addition to the Petersburg Health Care Alliance, it also runs the Appomattox Area Health and Wellness Center off Wagner Road in south Petersburg, and the Hopewell-Prince George Community Health Center near The Crossings in Prince George.

The Virginia grants were announced earlier this week in a joint statement from U.S. Sens. Timothy M. Kaine and Mark R. Warner, who said the funding will help the clinics "continue to provide lifesaving treatment for addiction."

According to the HHS website, OBOTS will allow primarycare and general healthcare prescribers to dispense federally recognized controlled substances for opioid-use disorders. In an OBOT setting, the medications Buprenorphine, Buprenorphine/Nalaxone and Naltrexone can be administered. The first two medicines are available as a take-home prescription, while Naltrexone can only be given at the clinic.

"Offering treatment through primary care or general practice removes barriers for patients seeking treatment," the HHS said. "Unlike outpatient treatment programs, integrated psychosocial and behavioral health services are not a legal requirement for OBOT; however, these resources should be accessible via referral. It is highly recommended that OBOT prescribers establish linkages within their communities with relevant resources and/or medical sub-specialties (e.g. behavioral health, infectious disease, job retraining, etc.)."

Bill Atkinson can be reached at 804-722-5167 or batkinson@progress-index.com. On Twitter: @BAtkinsonpi.