WKYT Investigates | New drug treatment facility focuses on continued contact, will not use Suboxone

LONDON, Ky. (WKYT) - For about 100 years, the campus nestled on a hill in London was home to Sue Bennett College, a private college affiliated with the United Methodist Church.

The college closed in 1997, but it has been reopened to teach a different set of lessons: How to live a sober life.

"They'll feel like a college student again," explained Dr. Daniel Mongiardo as he showed WKYT's Miranda Combs the campus grounds. "Addiction recovery is minute by minute, day by day, week by week."

Mongiardo is leasing the campus buildings to house LifeCore Recovery, a drug-abstinence program that he said is the first of its kind.

"There are a lot of 30-day facilities out there. At 30 days, you go home. God bless you," he said. "The success rate of those programs are exactly the same as doing nothing. We fail because we do not do the after-care."

So his facility allows patients to stay for the 30 days, but then they are kept in daily contact for a year.

"We know that if we can keep a patient in therapy for 12 months, our success rate could approach 90 percent," he said.

Nicholas Morris is new to LifeCore Recovery, an abstinence program. They give patients an anti-narcotic called Vivitrol, a monthly injection for up a year.

Days before WKYT's visit, Morris had a $200 a day habit of heroin and alcohol for fifteen years.

"Eventually, you don't get high anymore. You're just trying not to be sick," he said about his past life. He's excited about the opportunities for continued therapy through LifeCore Recovery.
Mongiardo is also marking success by leaving out Suboxone, a popular -- but controversial -- treatment drug for opioid abuse.

"It is a street drug," he said. "It has a street value and we as physicians are writing it at an alarming pace."

Mongiardo continued, "When the medication goes from being a tool of treating addiction to being a weapon causing addiction, it becomes very dangerous."

In 2015, Medicaid paid more than $27 million for Suboxone in Kentucky. Suboxone was the third most prescribed drug covered by Medicaid in the state.

Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge David Tapp told Combs he routinely sees Suboxone being abused by people in his courtroom.

"So those are taxpayers dollars," Tapp said. "It is a huge local problem."

In a 10-month time span, Tapp said he's had about 2,700 people in his court test positive for the illegal use of Suboxone.

"I never want to say that Suboxone is not an appropriate treatment for some individuals, it is. But to simply throw Suboxone at the problem, that's not smart and that's not supported by the empirical evidence," Tapp said.

Dr. Stephen Lamb is among those who believes Suboxone can help.

"When I first saw it in 1991, I saw people getting better." said Lamb, a psychiatrist and addiction specialist in Lexington.

Lamb said he has helped countless lives change course by using Suboxone. Suboxone contains Buprenorphine, which is an opioid medication.

"Now, are they off the narcotic? No. But is their life better? Yes. Is society's life better because they are not dealing and stealing? Yes. No, they are not off it but their behavior has changed dramatically," Lamb explained. He said when Suboxone is paired with counseling and a watchful eye, he sees success rates of more than 70 percent.

Lamb knows Suboxone can be abused, but he doesn't see it much in his office. Right now, he said it's his best bet for success.

"And I don't know what else to do," Lamb said. "I don't know of any other modality of treatment that's going to be as successful as this. If there were, I'd pounce on it."



 
Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station. powered by Disqus