St. Matthews pharmacy, recovery center team up against opioid crisis

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A local recovery center is using medicine for the first time on its patients with the help of a St. Matthews pharmacy.

It's been a long road for Erin Coffey, who now lives and works at The Healing Place. 

"If you grew up in the household that I did, I was bound to be a drug addict or an alcoholic. It's all that I ever knew," Coffey said.

The 28 year old has been sober since December 31.

"I'm one of the biggest advocates for the shot here at The Healing Place."

Patients like Coffey are using Vivitrol. 

"Everyone has somebody that they know that deals with alcohol or opiate or heroin addiction and this medication is a treatment for all of those," says Emily Blaiklock, Pharmacist at St. Matthews Community Pharmacy.

The medication blocks the effects of opioids for 28 days. This allows the patient to focus on his or her counseling and recovery.

"We have never, never done anything like this before, so much so, that I kind of bulked at this," says Selena Coomer, Director of Health Services at The Healing Place. 

So did others. The Healing Place is a non-medical program. St. Matthews Community Pharmacy approached the center almost a year ago with the program.

"Vivitrol is the only option that is a non opiate. So, there's no addictive potential with this. There's no tapering off," Blaiklock said.

Once a week, a pharmacist visits The Healing Place to give the Vivitrol shot, volunteering their time and waiving the fees. It's something the pharmacy is familiar with, having used the shot at its store for the last two years.

"Last month, I filled 98 Vivitrol prescriptions," Blaiklock said. "So, I haven't even been able to cover our baseline, but I think that the stories in our community and the need is a model that we're really looking into."

The pharmacy is looking into grants because once patients leave recovery centers like The Healing Place and go back into society, one shot is well over $900 on some insurance plans.

"Of those, I have almost restarted everyone back on it. So, usually they relapse, they lose their job, and they get back on federally funded insurance and they come back to me."

It's not foolproof. However, the executive director said it's working, with fewer patients like Coffey leaving.

"I'm grateful for it. I know that when I leave here, that it gives me enough of a safety net to think about what I'm doing, to play that tape out, to maybe pick up that phone to call my sponsor," Coffey said.

The recommendation is to use Vivitrol for six months to a year.

With a prescription, pharmacists also issue Vivitrol at St. Matthews Community Pharmacy with an administration fee. It's $50 for the first appointment and $20 for follow-up appointments. Naltrexone is also available, the equivalent of Vivitrol, but in pill form.  For more information, click here

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