Treatment Clinic Beat The Odds To Help Patients During Hurricane Florence

By Maggie Ethridge 09/27/18

“Some of those nurses were without power, they sustained damage to their homes, but they showed up every day.”

men boarding up a window

When Hurricane Florence swept through the eastern seaboard, it left behind patients in addiction treatment without access to their medications.

The hurricane brought with it flooding and blocked roads and bridges, putting patients in addiction treatment who use methadone or buprenorphine at risk of withdrawal or worse—relapse.

One opioid addiction clinic, the Carolina Treatment Center in Fayetteville, worked beyond its means to provide care for the stranded hurricane survivors coming in from far and wide.

The clinic would have been in dire straits if the nurses working there—most of them personally affected by the hurricane—had not been able to show up.

The clinic’s head nurse Kristen Morales worked 16 days in a row while living at a nearby hotel to ensure she could show up for her job. Huffington Post interviewed the treatment center director, Louis Leake, as he worked cases from as far as Louisiana.

“We can do a lot of things, but we can’t do a lot of things without nurses,” Leake said. “Some of those nurses were without power, they sustained damage to their homes, but they showed up every day.”

Past studies have shown the toll that intense storms take on the addiction recovery community. One study published in Substance Use Misuse on Hurricane Sandy concluded that among other troubling findings (such as the increased use of shared needles), 70% of those in opioid maintenance therapy could not obtain sufficient doses to remain off of opioids.

Nearby, Fayetteville Treatment Center was closed for a mandatory three-day evacuation. Patients were given between three and six days of treatment medication to take home, after which they had to be resupplied.

The Carolina Treatment Center was outside of the evacuation zone and took in all of Fayetteville’s addiction treatment patients, to treat a total of more than 900 patients.

Despite the four days of medication that patients could take home, between the three-day evacuation and road closures and flooding, many patients would have had to suffer through withdrawal or relapse if the Carolina Treatment Center had not gone above and beyond to provide a safety net for this vulnerable community.

Patient Terri Cooper told The Huffington Post, “It was busy, but thank God I could come here. I guess I would have got some damn drugs, to be honest if I didn’t feel good [if the clinic were closed]. That’s the truth.”

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Maggie May Ethridge is the author of Atmospheric Disturbances: Scenes From a Marriage (Shebooks, 2014) and the recently completed novel, Agitate My Heart. She is a freelance writer published in Rolling Stone, VOX, Washington Post, The Guardian and many others. Find her at her blog Flux Capacitor or on LinkedIn or Twitter.