Ocean County will likely see fewer opioid abuse-related deaths this year as compared to last, officials say, but the crisis is far from over and remains at stratospheric levels compared to years past. In Toms River, officials were on hand last week for a new treatment center on Route 37.
“People have sat in jail for a long time just waiting to find beds for treatment, so the more the merrier,” said Toms River Mayor Thomas Kelaher, who once served as Ocean County Prosecutor.
Diversionary programs and Drug Court have cut down on the number of people housed in the county jail in recent years, but the battle on the outside has been a lack of options for those who find themselves addicted to drugs to get help. Bradley Billhilmer, the current Ocean County prosecutor, said there have been 98 overdose deaths this year county-wide as of mid-November, a drop from when they topped 200 several years ago, but still one of the top issues facing the county. The new treatment center, Crossroads Addiction Treatment Centers, is the latest location for the company, which operates about 90 such centers across the country.
“As for Crossroads coming to Ocean County, specifically Toms River, we welcome you here,” said Billhimer. “We have been ground zero for the opiate epidemic for too long.”
The presence of treatment centers in local communities has proven controversial since the Toms River location will dispense methadone, bringing patients to the center frequently to stave off withdrawals in the initial stages of recovery. But company officials said they medication is, in reality, the smallest part of the services they provide.
“That’s the part about medication-assisted treatment people don’t understand,” said Anna Gaddy, Chief Quality Officer for Crossroads. “The medication helps them get rid of the withdrawal symptoms, but the counseling addresses what got them here in the first place, whether it’s family issues, legal issues or mental health issues.”
Crossroads is not what one would typically thinking of when the old term “methadone clinic” comes to mind. The office is brightly-colored, warmly lit and spacious. If more patients are attracted to its services, the company has already leased extra space to be able to expand. Privacy glass covers the front windows.
“One of the things that separates Crossroads from other treatment facilities is our environment,” said Gaddy. “We make sure that our facilities look like an office – welcoming and inviting to our patients. It’s not one of those facilities that are unclean or have lines wrapping around the block.”
The company is also selective about its staff, she said.
“We have a staff that is very inspiring and adheres to our culture, and culture is very important to us,” Gaddy said. “We hire people who actually care about this population and has a burning desire to do the best they can to help our patients get better.”
Crossroads already operates a clinic that dispenses buprenorphine, another medication used in addiction recovery, in Lacey Township. Toms River is its second Ocean County location, and the first of several more planned in New Jersey.
“Crossroads is committed to the fight against the opioid epidemic and eradicating the disease from Ocean County and throughout New Jersey,” said Pierce Wylie, director of business development for Crossroads. “The Toms River location is the first of several new clinics that will open in the state within the next year. Our goal is to make treatment accessible to the residents of Ocean County.”
The new Toms River clinic is located at 751 Route 37 West, Toms River, N.J. 08755. Patients seeking treatment services can walk-in without an appointment. Crossroads accepts Medicaid and most major commercial insurance plans.