After being closed for one year, a Norwich methadone clinic is reopening.
State and city leaders gathered at the Root Center for Advanced Recovery’s newly renovated Norwich location Monday morning. The location abruptly closed one year ago due to structural deficiencies, according to CEO Steven Zuckerman.
“We knew it was going to be a pretty huge hindrance for our patients, but we had no choice,” said Zuckerman.
Zuckerman said that the building was undergoing a minor renovation last year when an engineer alerted them to a larger structural problem. They were told to close immediately. One year later, the center is almost completely new and ready to open.
“It will be a lot easier for me,” said Alec Seekins from Norwich.
Seekins said that he has been struggling with addiction for the last seven years. He told NBC Connecticut that after receiving counseling and methadone treatment at Root Center’s New London location, he has been sober for one month. When the Norwich location opens, he will be able to access his treatment much easier.
“The clinic has actually saved my life,” said Seekins.
Methadone is a drug used to treat addiction. It helps minimize withdrawal symptoms, according to Zuckerman.
“It is very important to medically stabilize them so they could be more active,” explained Zuckerman.
The treatment helps a lot of people on the road to recovery. Some patients go to the center daily and receive their prescribed dose of medically assisted treatment.
Seekins said that if someone misses their methadone treatment it would be very difficult and might lead the patient to relapse.
When recovery groups in the City of Norwich learned that the center was closing last year, they feared the same thought.
“Oh my gosh, people are going to overdose more,” said Jill Corbin, who works at the St. Vincent DePaul Place in Norwich. “I was really nervous for everybody being able to understand the changes and being able to react as quickly as we needed to react.”
Corbin was at the table when a group of advocates came together to address the hurdles. Norwich Human Services and the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services helped the group find solutions for issues like transportation. All of the Norwich patients had to be treated at either the New London or Willimantic locations during the renovations and repairs. The group helped secure money to fund a van that would transport patients from the St. Vincent DePaul soup kitchen to the Root Center in New London.
The group also monitored overdoses in the area to make sure there were no spikes. Director of Human Services Lee-Ann Gomes said the city is already facing a high overdose rate. They did not want the overdoses to increase because people could not access their treatment.
“We know that Norwich has an exceedingly high rate of opioid overdoses and deaths,” said Gomes. “I think we are doing a great job at preventing deaths because we have kind of flooded the community with Narcan, our overdose rate is still very, very high.”
Gomes said the Root Center plays a key role in helping the community fight the opioid epidemic, by making sure patients have access to recovery options.
Zuckerman said that his team closely monitored patient numbers and no-show rates to make sure no one fell through the cracks in the last year. He said that the newly renovated center, at the same Thames Street location, will welcome in almost the same amount of patients it had when it closed.
“We have had some great success with this, but I am sure our clients are very excited about not having to be in the car that long,” said Zuckerman.
The new Norwich location will have longer hours, more treatment options and more space, according to Zuckerman.
The center is still waiting on several state licenses before they can officially welcome patients back. They said they hope to receive full clearance by next week. Free transportation for patients will be available to New London until one week after the Norwich location re-opens, according to Corbin.