Opioid tablets. Photo via Wikimeda Commons

The Board of Supervisors Tuesday unanimously approved a set of guidelines for opioid treatment centers under county contracts, after hearing Oceanside and southeast San Diego residents complain about facilities in their neighborhoods.

Last August, the board directed staff to develop local criteria, within the scope of federal law, for locating and operating medication assisted treatment, or MAT, clinics; provide a corrective action plan for clinics that don’t comply; and create an outreach plan encourage primary care physicians to offer MAT services.

Tuesday’s vote will “further support local oversight of MAT services in order to ensure best practices are utilized and the highest quality care is provided to those we serve,” according to the county.

County staff will report back to the board on clinic compliance every 90 days during the first year, and then semi-annually after that.

Nick Machionne, director of the county Health and Human Services Agency, said new guidelines will allow the county to terminate contracts with treatment facilities that aren’t complying.

Luke Bergmann, county Behavioral Health Service director, added that it’s important to make sure the programs don’t disturb surrounding neighborhoods.

Supervisor Jim Desmond said he proposed some changes after hearing from Oceanside residents about a clinic in his district — identified as the SOAP MAT on Waring Road — with the goal of figuring out “how these two can coexist.”

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said MAT programs reduce drug use, disease, overdoses and save lives, but it’s also important to hold contractors accountable.

“If we did not have these programs, there would be tens of thousands without any help,” Fletcher said. “We have the obligation to make sure these are working right.”

He added that more funding for mental and behavioral health is needed in conjunction with drug treatment.

Residents told the board that they have seen patients at Oceanside and San Diego MAT clinics urinating, injecting drugs or behaving in an aggressive manner.

Monica Montgomery, a San Diego city councilwoman, said a methadone clinic in her district is located in a busy shopping center near a family housing complex. Montgomery said residents have told her that they no longer wish to shop there because of the Eldorado Community Service Center at 1733 Euclid Ave.

“This facility has not been a good community partner,” said Montgomery, adding and she and her staff are working to have it shut down.

Victor Dalforno, a pediatrician whose office is next to a MAT clinic on Waring Road in Oceanside, said it has driven doctors and patients away, and decreased property values.

“Everything is not fine because calls to (law enforcement) have decreased,” Dalforno said.

Dr. Laura Rossi, owner of SOAP MAT, said her clinic follows federal guidelines and she’s willing to sit down with community members to resolve any issues.

Rossi added that because of federal rules, moving the clinic elsewhere is very difficult.

Tara Stamos-Buesig, founder of the San Diego Harm Reduction Coalition said that as a mother, she understands concerns over MAT clinics that aren’t following guidelines.

However, as a recovering addict, Stamos-Buesig said she also understands allowing greater treatment access for those wanting to break the cycle of addiction.

— City News Service

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