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New clinic expands access to opioid addiction treatment in Citrus County

Inside a methadone clinic. Chair with a sweatshirt on the back sits near a desk. On the desk are medication dispensers, plastic cups, hand sanitizer, Narcan and a computer. There's a window separating the office from the patient lobby.
Stephanie Colombini
WUSF Public Media
Patients coming into Operation PAR's new medication-assisted treatment center in Citrus County can access drugs like methadone and buprenorphine under the supervision of medical professionals.

Previously Citrus residents had to travel to other counties in the region to access drugs like methadone, which can reduce opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms in patients.

Citrus County residents struggling with opioid addiction have a new option for treatment. The county's first licensed methadone clinic opened in Inverness on Tuesday.

Doctors prescribe methadone to reduce opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms in patients. When taken as prescribed, health experts say it’s safe and effective at reducing overdoses.

The drug is heavily regulated and previously Citrus County residents had to travel to clinics in other parts of the state such as Hernando, Marion or Pasco Counties to access it.

The nonprofit Operation PAR is running the Inverness clinic, its tenth medication assisted treatment (MAT) center in Florida. The facility also offers other drugs to treat addiction, including buprenorphine and naltrexone, also known by the brand name Vivitrol.

Officials say there are roughly 50 clients who live in Citrus County that have had to go to Operation PAR’s other locations in the region to get care.

“And a lot of these clients come in on a maintenance basis, so they may come in a couple of times a week or even daily, and that's a pretty, pretty big ask just to get their life back stable to travel a couple hours a day for services,” said Marvin Coleman, the organization’s vice president of legislative and community affairs.

Those individuals have been transferred over to the Inverness site, and Coleman said he hopes the new facility will provide treatment for residents who may not have sought help before because of the barriers.

Citrus County has a higher drug overdose death rate than the state average, according to 2021 data from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

There were 56 deaths per 100,000 residents for all drugs and 43.3 for opioids in Citrus, compared to 38.5 and 31.2 deaths, respectively, statewide.

In addition to the opioid treatment medication, Operation PAR’s program also requires patients receive behavioral health counseling, which they can get on site.

The center accepts Medicaid and Medicare, and program director Dawn Jackson said for uninsured patients who can’t afford to pay out-of-pocket, there is grant funding available to help.

“Our goal is to never have to turn anybody away that's looking to get into treatment and better their life,” she said.

The center is partnering with community groups in the county to connect clients to jobs, housing and other resources.

I cover health care for WUSF and the statewide journalism collaborative Health News Florida. I’m passionate about highlighting community efforts to improve the quality of care in our state and make it more accessible to all Floridians. I’m also committed to holding those in power accountable when they fail to prioritize the health needs of the people they serve.