The Health Center at Faith Mission is rolling out a Women’s Health program. Access to safe and affordable contraceptive options are crucial for the health of any woman, but especially so for those who are living in poverty or other vulnerable circumstances.
According to Nurse Practitioner Manager Alyssa Huddleston, the program is active now. “We have oral contraceptives and Depo-Provera in our pharmacy now,” reports Huddleston, who tells me that these have been prescribed to patients who are interested. Depo-Provera is a contraceptive that is given by injection every three months. Additionally, “all of the providers are certified to give Nexplanon implants,” says Huddleston. The Nexplanon implant is a small rod that is inserted under the skin of a woman’s upper arm and can prevent pregnancies for up to four years.
In the near future, the Health Center will be able to provide other contraceptive options in addition to those described above and the condoms that are kept in stock. Huddleston is attending training at the Columbus Public Health Women’s Health Clinic in order to provide IUDs to women. “They offered to let me shadow so I can get some hands-on experience,” she says. The Health Center will have both hormonal and copper IUD options for women so that they can best choose the option that fits their needs.
The Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) program continues to grow as well, and the Health Center has hired an additional case manager to help with the anticipated program growth. Participants can be prescribed Vivitrol or Suboxone, depending on the needs of the individual. The MAT program is not a medication-only program, but a whole-health approach. “We treat the whole person, which is the only way to do it,” says Sarah Hurst-Pelfrey, Recovery Counselor. A person who is interested in medication only would not be a good fit for the program, but for those who are looking for holistic approaches to addiction recovery, the MAT program can be a great opportunity. “We’re still taking referrals, because we still have a lot of slots we can fill,” says Huddleston.
Audrey Knaff is the Behavioral Health Manager at the Health Center and oversees the MAT program. Knaff is well aware of the challenges that face the program. “Obviously, there is a stigma regarding medication-assisted treatment,” says Knaff. Health care providers have been somewhat nervous about prescribing Vivitrol and Suboxone. “There are a lot of rules and regulations in prescribing these medications,” reports Knaff. “Through training, discussion and practicing, the level of comfort has increased tremendously, and the providers are eager to participate.”
The MAT program has seen success stories, which are encouraging to staff. I spoke to Hurst-Pelfrey about a particular patient, who she says has been helped by “giving him tools to help manage cravings, and providing social support as well as structure, which is always essential in the early stages of recovery.” This particular patient chose Vivitrol and has been taking the medicine as prescribed. “We addressed his primary care medical needs in conjunction with his addiction needs, which is essential,” says Hurst-Pelfrey.
The MAT program is still relatively new, only having begun in October 2018. When asked about the future of the program, Knaff says she anticipates the patient load increasing. “Being able to obtain data and information about outcomes that will help us better understand who we are working with” will help the program as it grows, “as well as progress, barriers and the path that we need to take with our program.” The staff at the Health Center are excited about the opportunity to address the severe addiction needs in Franklin County.
The Health Center at Faith Mission is open to the public. Referrals to the MAT program can be made by calling Audrey Knaff at (614) 224-6617m extension 2136. Persons who want to participate in the Women’s Health program or address any other health care needs can call (614) 224-6617, extension 3, and ask to have an appointment with a medical provider.