Integris treatment facility aims to combat opioid abuse

Oklahoma City-based Integris Health is planning to open Integris Arcadia Trails Center for Addiction Recovery in Edmond, Okla., which will provide treatment for addiction, mental illness and trauma.

Integris is building the facility amid a state need for treatment options.

"There are nearly 600 Oklahomans on a statewide waiting list for residential substance abuse treatment services, on any given day," said Terri White, Oklahoma Commissioner of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. "These are individuals who have asked for help and have been assessed to need this level of care, but we simply do not have the resources to respond. And, we know, that when appropriate services are not available, other negative consequences occur that further compound the problem and cost more to address. Oklahoma's death rate due to alcohol and drug poisonings has more than tripled over the past 15 years."

Funding for Arcadia will primarily come through a $35 million campaign led by community members, according to Integris. A total of $23.1 million has already been secured for the facility, which is expected to open in early 2019.

Oklahoma City Psychiatrist R. Murali Krishna, MD, who co-founded the James L. Hall Center for Mind Body and Spirit at Integris and is heavily involved with the project, recently spoke with Becker's Hospital Review about planned care at Arcadia and the goals with the facility.

Note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity. 

Question: What prompted the idea for the Integris Arcadia Trails Center for Addiction Recovery?

Dr. R. Murali Krishna: Six years ago in August I invited three community leaders to my home. Something that's common to all of us is we have enormous suffering from a family member that has a brain disorder addiction or mental illness or a combination of both that devastated them and their families. Kelly Dyer Fry is editor of The Oklahoman, whose son Eric [began] suffering from severe addiction from a very early age. She has taken him to many centers around the country and no treatment has been successful for him. He's still suffering. Meanwhile, she's exhausted a lot of her resources both emotional and financial. Reggie Whitten is a respected attorney in Oklahoma, and his son Brandon developed addiction to pain drugs while he was in college. [The drugs were] given to him by his colleagues. Then he became addicted to them and then eventually that killed him. Reggie did not think these types of problems happened in good families like ours so he was devastated. He decided to dedicate his life to educating people about addiction. Terri White is Oklahoma's commissioner of mental health [and substance abuse], and she's been very concerned about lack of adequate resources for Oklahomans.

[As for me], my life was a very happy life until nine years of age. I was just a regular good boy growing up in India in a happy family, and my mother was the glue that kept our family happy. She is the one that with minimal education kept us very well-educated, very well-fed and happy. So we were really good until when I was nine, she suddenly became ill — some mysterious illness, we didn't know what it was. Our neighbors thought she was possessed by an evil spirit so they ostracized her. We took her to the doctor, exhausted everything we had financially, emotionally, spiritually, and she made two serious suicide attempts. Until that time, I was wanting to be an engineer, but from that moment onward I decided to become a doctor. I thought by becoming a doctor I would know what my mom had and get her the proper treatment.

So the four of us decided to meet together at my home, and by the end of the day we were determined to do something [to] convert our suffering into healing and hope and create help for the many Oklahomans and others in surrounding states who don't have hope right now. We decided to create a world-class center for addiction recovery that would treat addiction, mental illness and trauma simultaneously. [Eventually], we decided we needed some practical guidance — somebody who can make business sense out of what we're doing. So we invited [Integris President and CEO] Bruce Lawrence to meet. Bruce felt our determination and our knowledge and passion. He said Integris Health would become our partner … and help us get where we want to go.

Q: What will the facility entail?

RK: There will be a treatment wing where patients will receive their evaluations and therapies. Then there will be 20 patient residential suites — 20 men and 20 women in separate wings.

Additionally, it will be located on a 44-acre tract of land right next to Integris Health Edmond. These facilities are next to Interstate 35 where [thousands of] cars go by each day. We want to send a strong message that this is a brain disease, that we are treating a medical illness. We want residents to be proud to receive treatment there, not be somewhere they have to travel to incognito.

The facility will [also house an] education center and conference room. We will have community outreach and a tremendous amount of educational activities connecting with our community [and] our providers. [We'll] provide them with the latest available knowledge [by] bringing in national speakers and also helping prevention efforts in our state. So that's going to be a center that's going to have a tremendous impact in a major way on the community for years to come.

Q: What will the facility mean in terms of the opioid epidemic?

RK: Opioid addiction is devastating our nation and the underlying disease is addiction. If you ask most people, they feel that addiction is a moral failure — only weak people take those drugs. But most people don't understand it's a brain disease. What's common to all addictions is loss of control. If you give opioids [or] pain medicine to 100 people, 75 people take the pain medicine and will have the desired effect of numbing the pain for a few days and tend to stop the medicine. But 25 will have a genetic predisposition and will have changes happen in their brain. They start feeling like they are a square peg in a round hole until they get their drug. So they seek the drug. Without the drug they don't feel comfortable, they don't feel normal. So it's a genetically predisposed disease. Then the vicious cycle starts. They need the drug to feel normal, then the drug destroys them gradually.

With the opioid crisis we have right now, we can't solve the whole crisis of the whole nation. But we decided to do something the right way right here in Oklahoma. We are going to treat adult patients and give them a comprehensive evaluation — a complete evaluation physically, from a mental health standpoint, from a trauma standpoint and a very thorough medical examination also. We [will] also give psychological testing and then the treatment. We're expecting the average stay to be 45 to 90 days.

Q: What are the next steps?

RK: We will start the fundraising for the $12 million dollars we would like to raise in the next 12 months. We are in the process of hiring a medical director with specialty training and experience with addiction, medicine and psychiatry. We [are] also [in the process of] hiring a psychologist with an addiction background and experience, and hiring an executive director. We'll [also] be hiring, in the next 12 months, the respective therapists and counselors and other staff we need. By the time we open, we'll have at least 25 staff members.


More articles on opioids: 
Indianapolis mayor announces plans for city opioid lawsuit 
1st Texas county files opioid lawsuit against drugmakers, distributors 
Survey: 1 in 4 Americans say physicians are most to blame for opioid epidemic

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