ST. JOHNSBURY — A new treatment center will open on Memorial Drive next month to serve people struggling with substance use disorder.

SaVida Health, which has an office in Newport City, is an outpatient medication-assisted treatment provider that is based in Tennessee. It will be opening its new St. Johnsbury location at 4614 Memorial Dr. on March 2. The building, which is owned by Vinny Matteis, is the former home of Dr. Donald Steen’s Animal Hospital.

The fact that the building was used as a veterinary clinic complete with treatment rooms offers a good working floor plan for SaVida to fit into, said Mandy Lumsden, Center Administrator for SaVida. “The floor plan was absolutely ideal … It really was set up perfectly for a medical office.”

The clinic will prescribe medications like Suboxone and Vivitrol and also offer psych med management, medical care, counseling, and case management. Lumsden said focusing on individuals through case management allows staff to help address other needs beyond drug dependency like food insecurity or homelessness.

“This comprehensive and integrated approach to recovery is widely accepted as the most effective form of outpatient treatment for substance use disorder today,” she said.

The arrival of SaVida in town will make two substance use disorder treatment centers in St. Johnsbury. BAART Programs on Hospital Drive has been operating here for many years.

Lumsden, of Walden, said the two clinics can coexist in the same town. In fact, Newport, which has a SaVida location also has a BAART clinic. She called BAART a “wonderful program” for people focused on the early stage of recovery or addressing relapse on a daily basis. She said SaVida aims to help patients who are in need of a less frequent intervention that’s not daily dosing. Patients progress through treatment with weekly visits, then every other week every three weeks and monthly. Also, SaVida doesn’t provide methadone as a treatment while BAART does.

Laural Ruggles, Vice president of Marketing and Community Health Improvement at NVRH, said SaVida is another “spoke” to support the “hub and spoke” system of medication-assisted treatment.

The system supports people in recovery from opioid use disorder. Nine regional hubs, including BAART, offer daily support for patients with complex addictions. “Spokes” include doctors, nurses, and counselors who offer ongoing opioid use disorder treatment fully integrated with general healthcare and wellness services.

“Another ‘spoke’ means another option for folks seeking treatment,” said Ruggles. “We were always hoping there would be more ‘spoke’ providers.”

Said Dr. Susan Cary, medical director for SaVida, “We are excited to be part of the St. Johnsbury community. Our goal is to help people reclaim their lives with effective medical treatment focusing on each person’s individual needs … We prescribe buprenorphine-based medicines, which have been proven to increase the chances for recovery.”

SaVida opened its office at 79 Coventry St., Newport City, in September 2019, followed by a treatment center in Morrisville in October 2019. Both locations are in downtown buildings, but Lumsden said the St. Johnsbury office away from the downtown is a good spot. It’s on a Rural Community Transport route for easy busing for patients, she said. It’s close to Lyndonville where some SaVida patients have been traveling from for treatment in Newport, and it’s close to the Interstate 91 exit in Lyndon. Lumsden the interstate access will make it convenient for people traveling from the Littleton area.

The building sits between two other Matteis-owned properties, one occupied by Weaver Construction and the other by Tim Ruggles, of Ruggles Engineering.

SaVida in St. Johnsbury will be open on Tuesday and Wednesdays, beginning March 2. Lumsden said four people will be staffing the office.

“I am very pleased to bring our services to this wonderful community,” said Sharon Shepard, Chief Operating Officer at SaVida. “Addiction is a chronic disease that has touched most people’s lives. We meet patients where they are at in their recovery and we have a very high success rate in helping our patients achieve and maintain sobriety.”

More information can be found online at www.SaVidaHealth.com.

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