ST. ALBANS — For treatment of an opiate addiction to be successful, it has to be curtailed to the specific needs of each individual, according to Turning Point of Franklin County staff member Melinda Lussier.


As a survivor and witness to other people’s recovery over the years, Lussier said a common thread she’s found in effective treatment is when an individual addresses their addiction holistically and thinks long-term.


The first step to recovery is detoxing, which takes an average of three to five days to remove all traces of drugs or alcohol from the body, according to Lussier. For a long time user, the day count goes up.


The closest detox locations for people who live in Franklin County are the Howard Center in Burlington and the Brattleboro Retreat, which also offers mental health services for people who are suicidal.


Some people find success with detoxing slowly and prefer medication-assisted therapy, using methadone or buprenorphine to ease their withdrawal symptoms. A new regional opioid treatment center or hub is set to open in St. Albans in January, expecting to serve at least 250 Vermonters in the first year of operation. The hub and spoke (primary care provider) model coordinates detox, residential treatment and outpatient services for the individual.


Lussier said she’s seen success with this model on a case-by-case basis and recommends having an exit plan for slowly tapering off when using this approach. “For me, it would’ve been horrible,” she said, because she would’ve abused the system and sold the medication to help pay her rehab bills.


The next step to recovery after a complete detox is finding a residential treatment center, according to Lussier. Some factors to consider are location, cost and additional services offered. The nearest treatment centers are Maple Leaf Farm in Underhill, Valley Vista in Bradford and Recovery House in Wallingford.


Lussier recommends staying at a treatment center anywhere from 60 to 90 days, but oftentimes, insurance only covers two to three weeks. She said the length of stay at treatment centers is a major barrier to recovery because people are forced to leave before they’re ready.


When someone leaves a residential treatment center, Lussier said the individual should enter an intensive outpatient program (IOP), which offers treatment services and support, whilst living in a sober house or halfway house. IOPs typically meet three times a week in three-hour blocks, she said.


From entering a detox facility to finishing an IOP, a person should have ideally devoted almost six months to setting a foundation for a life in recovery, Lussier said.


However, there are many factors that get in the way of a smooth recovery, she said.

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