By Joe Morey
After months of uncertainty, it became official on Monday, March 27, the Medical-Assisted Therapy (MAT) program was relocated from the Bizhiki Wellness Center over to the main Lac Courte Oreilles Community Health Center building next to the tribal offices.
The LCO Tribal Governing Board (TGB) approved of the move, despite community members and Bizhiki staff holding meetings sharing their opposition to the move.
Dr. Steve Miskiewicz, the Chief Medical Officer of the clinic, said patients will be seen by Angie Pank NP-Psych, Amanda Suino-Malcolm APNP, Jessica Hartmann APNP, and himself.
“We are also in process of creating a Harm Reduction Program for LCOCHC. This will be led by Christian Clarquist RN and Britne Longtine RN, our Directors of Nursing, with assistance of Theresa Moore CMA, who will be the liaison for harm reduction and facilitate substance use disorder (SUD) patients for the MAT program at the Bizhiki Building. The MAT program has worked hard to help control SUD but with these changes, we hope to create a gold standard MAT/Harm reduction program for our tribe, allowing us to hopefully win this war on Opiates.”
At a large gathering of concerned citizens and staff members, people shared their opposition stating the privacy that Bizhiki offers its clients isn’t available to them in the more public setting of the main clinic. The concern was that the more crowded main clinic would allow people to know why patients were there when dealing with heroin and other drug addictions.
Gary Girard, LCO Health Center Director, explained the reason for moving the Recovery Clinic to the main clinic is because of nursing care and prescribing drugs. He said they would be able to provide better care for their patients.
Girard explained that establishing care is critical and a patient may have other problems beyond what is established like a drug problem. He said for instance, they may be abusing Suboxone, which is the medical-assisted drug for recovery.
“We are trying to build the Recovery Clinic, not bring it down,” Girard stated. “We want them to get comprehensive care, not just suboxone. They need supportive care. It takes time to deal with.”
Dr. Steve Miszkiewicz said according to IHS guidelines, it states MAT is a medical program and it should be in the confines of the clinic.