Maryhaven addition offers shortcut to rehab
Emergency responders twice snatched Mark Voils from the edge of death by overdose. Both times, Voils went back to the drug that was killing him.
Being revived after a lethal dose of heroin hadn’t felt like cause for celebration or gratitude. It felt like being pulled from a place of peace and ease and tropical, almost magical, warmth. “Next thing you know, you’re in Alaska,” he said. “You’re cold and shivering. You’re sick.”
The time between overdose and relapse can pass quickly, Voils and others know, but it also offers a unique opportunity. Getting addicts into treatment fast — often by way of the same emergency crew
that saved them — is at the heart of the new Maryhaven Addiction Stabilization Center.
Maryhaven gave state and community leaders an early look at the 55-bed center, which could start receiving patients as soon as next month, during a ribbon-cutting and tour Wednesday. Voils, clean for more than six years and now manager of admissions at Maryhaven, was among those who spoke at the event.
Mayor Andrew J. Ginther hailed the stabilization center as “the first of its kind in the country.”
Maryhaven worked with the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board of Franklin County, which is investing about $7 million in the center, and other public and private supporters.
“From concept to completion, this project took just seven months,” Ginther said.
The center’s triage, detox and other treatment areas will operate on two floors in the Select
Specialty Hospital building at 1430 S. High St. on the city’s South Side. An open house for the public is set for 4 to 6 p.m. Friday.
Shawn Holt, Maryhaven’s president and CEO, said the center is desperately needed to take pressure off of hospital emergency rooms and to provide more and faster chances for recovery. Too many addicts in the city, as throughout the state, wind up on waiting lists for treatment even after suffering a near-fatal overdose.
“We were turning people away,” Holt said.
The drug abuse-overdose-relapse cycle rages throughout the city, said Jim Davis, assistant chief in the Columbus Division of Fire. City firefighters are administering the opioid overdose-reversal drug naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, eight to 10 times a day, he said. That’s double the rate of just a year ago.
“It’s a problem that’s getting worse, not getting better,” Davis said. As many as 20 to 30 addicts are revived multiple times in just one year, he said.
Davis thinks the stabilization center model is promising. For addicts who want immediate help, firefighters will be able to transport to the new Maryhaven center. “They’ll be able to be brought to a facility where stabilization can occur, where the effects of withdrawal can be managed,” Davis said.
The urge to use after receiving a dose of naloxone is difficult to manage, as addicts are jolted into immediate withdrawal, said Andrew Moss, director of the Maryhaven Stabilization Center. “It takes over instantly, and it drives everything they do,” he said. “Now, if they’re OK medically, they’ll be eligible to come here.”
Voils, who lives in Hilliard with his wife and three children, is 31, about the same age his brother was in 2015. “He died of a heroin-fentanyl overdose,” Voils said. “I can’t help but think that one of the Narcan kits being distributed to the public now might have saved his life.”