Substance abuse clinics here, assisting

OBSERVER Photo By Mary Heyl. The Chautauqua Center has two officess on Central Avenue. Here at 314 Central Ave., dental and behavioral health, including substance abuse, services are provided, and across the street at 319 Central Ave., primary care services are provided.

While recent drug-related deaths in the city have prompted the mayor’s office to ramp up efforts to bring a methadone clinic to Dunkirk, other organizations have been working hard to address the drug epidemic right along.

On Central Avenue, there are no fewer than four organizations that offer substance abuse services within a block of each other. Brooks Memorial Hospital, the Chautauqua County Mental Health Clinic, UPMC Chautauqua WCA and The Chautauqua Center all offer multiple health-care services where anyone in crisis or struggling with addiction can immediately get help. Recently, Chautauqua Center CEO Michael Pease and Clinical Director Kristy Lauer sat down with the OBSERVER to share the many ways in which their organization treats not only substance abuse, but the whole person.

According to Pease, The Chautauqua Center has been offering substance abuse services for over two years, including medication-assisted therapy. Although the organization is not a methadone clinic per se, as a federally qualified health-care center they are able to offer a variety of health-care services including primary care, dental care, mental health and behavioral health services to individuals of all income levels, insured or not.

In fact, both Pease and Lauer believe that the variety of health-care services they provide is what has actually helped more people — even if they weren’t aware they needed it. “We offer a more integrated approach because the organization started as a primary care clinic, and then we added in the mental health and the substance abuse services, and then the dental services and care coordination,” Lauer explained.

“We make sure we’re providing those kinds of services because outcomes and success of the patient depend on treating everything, not just one little thing.”

OBSERVER Photo by Mary Heyl. Kristy Lauer, at right, clinical director of The Chautauqua Center, meets one-on-one with patients to understand their needs, including those related to substance abuse.

Pease pointed out that sometimes, individuals are more likely to seek and get help in a primary care setting. “What may seem like just a bad habit to someone or something they’ve got under control is actually affecting – or caused by – other areas of their health, and those are the kinds of conversations they can have with a primary care provider,” Pease explained. “From there, we can offer them the substance abuse and mental health or behavioral health services they may also need. But if they don’t think of their substance abuse as a problem or addiction, they’re a lot less likely to walk into a methadone clinic than they are to a primary care visit.”

Pease added that another benefit of the variety of services The Chautauqua Center offers is the anonymity in visiting one of their locations. “When you come into our waiting room, nobody knows why you’re here,” Pease pointed out. “It’s different if you go into a place that solely deals with substance abuse. Here, you could be seen for dental, primary care or Eat Smart services. No one knows, and people have acknowledged multiple times that that’s one of the reasons why they enjoy coming here.”

Lauer and Pease explained that the Center works with the other organizations on Central Avenue, as well as The Resource Center, CASAC and TLC’s inpatient substance abuse treatment at their Lake Shore Center and outpatient clinic in Cassadaga. “Our organization works really closely with all those other organizations,” Pease said. “If there’s something that they can provide that we can’t provide, we absolutely refer the patient to them, and we will co-manage together. The simplest example is the hospital because we don’t do inpatient services. I know, at least with the hospital, that it goes both ways — they refer patients back to us. It’s a good relationship, and it’s a shame it’s not known about.”

While The Chautauqa Center has the capacity to take on more patients and is eager to help, for Lauer and Pease, it’s more important to get the word out about all local resources. “We’ve already got a system built,” Pease explained. “This misperception that there’s nothing available is misleading. The other thing that I think is really important for us, specifically, is that we heard there weren’t services available for people who speak Spanish. Nothing could be further from the truth.” Lauer added that the Cetner has at least 15 translators, several bilingual staff members and the other local agencies have access to translators through family services.

“There’s plenty of services to provide to the people that need it,” Lauer stated. “We’re not asking everybody to come to us. There’s plenty of patients for all of us to serve. We just want people to know we’re here.”

Pease agreed. “Of course, we’re here because we want to take care of people, but I want to make sure that the community knows there are services available that they could go to if they were in a crisis. There’s a lot of places–not just us. If someone walks in in crisis, they’re going to be taken care of right away. No one should feel that this kind of life-saving help isn’t available right now.”

Lauer and Pease invite anyone seeking substance abuse services or any other healthcare services provided by The Chautauqua Center to call 366-6050 or just stop in their Dunkirk office at 319 Central Avenue or in Jamestown at 110 E. Fourth St. TCC takes all insurance, no insurance and has payment plans and sliding scales. Pease said TCC can help coordinate transportation and now offers pharmacy services for their patients. “We’ve saved some of our patients literally hundreds of dollars a month,” he said.

“We are not perfect, by any means, but we’re trying really hard to meet the needs of the community,” Pease explained. “And when I say community, I mean everybody. There’s this huge misperception that we are only here for people of lesser means, and that is not accurate. In fact, one of our quicker growing populations are people that have private insurance.”

Lauer added, “What we really want people to know is that there are options available right now, today. You don’t have to wait months or whenever for help with substance abuse … I think that’s my biggest fear — that there are people who are out there that might be waiting for this clinic to come in, when they could be getting help today.”

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