Watertown's first medication-assisted heroin treatment center opens

Oct 4, 2016

North Country residents struggling with heroin and opioid addiction have a new treatment option. A medication-assisted heroin treatment center in Watertown is taking its first patients.

Until last week, Credo Community Center in Watertown offered recovering heroin addicts only abstinence treatment – the cold turkey approach to overcoming their substance abuse.

Jim Scordo, Credo’s executive director, says he found it didn’t work for some.

“With this heroin and opiate epidemic, I saw people getting well while they were with us in treatment and then for some reason 12 months, 18 months, 24 months later they are drawn back to this drug like nothing I have ever seen.” Scordo said.

Until now, users struggling against relapsing in the North Country had to drive to Syracuse or Plattsburgh for medical treatment, like methadone. In response to the heroin epidemic, treatment centers in rural communities across the country  are embracing new opiate-blockers like Suboxone and Vivitrol. The medications are meant to help users get off opiates for good.

Scordo says essentially, this type of medication is no different than others used to treat some illnesses.

“When an individual has an under-active Thyroid, they take Synthroid to bring their thyroid levels up, if they are diabetic, they take insulin to bring their sugar levels up.”

The center has hired a director, one doctor and two nurses for the clinic. Scordo says while the clinic has the capacity to treat 100 patients, they’re treating only two so far. He greeted one of the patients the other day.

“I saw him this morning as he was coming in to receive his medication and his counseling and he looked like a completely different person,” said Scordo.

Scordo says the man shook his hand, thanked him and told him Credo had saved his life.