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Drug addiction treatment facility coming to Houlton soon

HOULTON, Maine — The renovation of a former Houlton medical building into a drug addiction treatment facility is progressing, and could open to receive clients in April or May.

Groups Recover Together, a medication assisted treatment program that has nine other clinics in Maine, is renovating the Hartford Street building across from Houlton Regional Hospital. The building used to be the site of physician offices.

The firm combines regulated medication, such as buprenorphine, which reduces cravings and withdrawal symptoms, with behavioral counseling over an 18- to 24-month period to help people addicted to any opiate, ranging from heroin to prescription medication.

According to information provided by the program, GRT’s six-month retention rate is higher than 50 percent; the national average for outpatient therapy relating to opiate addiction is roughly 40 percent.

Clients will obtain their medication at a pharmacy. Groups Recover Together accepts members with or without insurance.

Cooper Zelnick, executive director of Groups Recover Together, said Wednesday that the organization is renovating the space and pushing toward a late April or May opening.

The for-profit chain of addiction treatment clinics, is expanding rapidly in Maine and throughout the country with some 60 facilities in eight states so far. Clinics in Maine are located in Biddeford, Portland, Lewiston, Augusta, Rockland, Ellsworth, Calais, Machias, and Farmington. The company plans to open an office in Bangor on April 8 and one in Waterville on April 22 and in the future in Belfast, Newport and Rumford.

Groups Recover Together has committed to seeing patients within a week, with no wait lists.

Zelnick said the organization is not placing a number on how many patients will be seen at the Houlton clinic.

“We have an ongoing commitment to never having a wait list,” he said. “We want to see as many people as want treatment.”

He said that the Machias office currently treats between 60 and 70 people, while larger offices near cities could treat more than 250.

“Our goal is just to meet the needs of the community,” he said.

The program is currently advertising for staff, which will include a full-time licensed counselor and an office coordinator. The program will be working with local doctors and Houlton Regional Hospital to treat as many people as needed.

“If someone comes to the emergency room at Houlton Regional Hospital and they want treatment, we want to get them in to our program in 24 hours or less,” he said. “We want to provide immediate access, especially when you have someone who expresses a desire to get off drugs.”

Last year, more than 1,500 Maine residents received medication-assisted treatment, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

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