Affinia Healthcare

On November 1, Affinia Healthcare leaders and local officials and stakeholders cut the ribbon to a substance use treatment clinic at Affinia Healthcare’s 2220 Lemp Ave. location in South St. Louis. Left to right: Affinia President and CEO Dr. Alan Freeman; Affinia VP and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Melissa Tepe; Dr. Jenny Walczak, psychologist; Joel James, Affinia board member; Affinia VP and COO Dr. Kendra Holmes; St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell, Dr. Will Ross, Washington University School of Medicine; Jim Lippert, board adivsor; and Affinia VP Yvonne Buhlinger.

Affinia Healthcare has added a substance use treatment clinic in South St. Louis at its 2220 Lemp Ave. location. Its North Side location at 1717 Biddle St. already provides substance use treatment, and a needs assessment last year revealed the same access was needed in South City. 

Kendra Holmes, who earned a doctorate in pharmacy and serves as vice president and chief operating officer at Affinia Healthcare, said it aligns with their mission to provide access to care for underserved populations.

“One of the access items that really came up as a barrier for a lot of our population that we serve was for substance abuse treatment,” Holmes said. “We see quite a number of overdoses in the communities that we serve, so it’s really to prevent that and provide affordable access for those who are most at need for substance abuse treatment.”

State data shows overdose deaths in Missouri are heading in the wrong direction. Holmes said they increased by 17 percent in 2018 although there was a 4.2 percent decrease in drug overdoses nationwide.

“Missouri has a lot of work to do to catch up to the nation,” Holmes said. “Unfortunately, the largest proportion of those overdose deaths occurred in St. Louis, so that really points to the need in underserved communities.”

Federal grant funding paid for the renovation of a suite dedicated to helping patients break drug addiction, and a ribbon cutting on Friday, November 1 was attended by community partners who would rather see people get clean rather than face jail time. Affinia has a partnership with the prosecutor’s offices in St. Louis and St. Louis County for drug diversion referrals. Holmes chairs Prosecutor Wesley Bell’s Diversion Advisory Committee in the county.

“For those individuals who are low-level offenders, nonviolent offenders who have a history of substance abuse or behavioral health issues, we do provide diversion for those individuals,” Holmes said. Participation in Bell’s diversion program is voluntary.

“If you have those issues, which are medical issues, what we would do is give you an option to go through our medication-assisted treatment program, that provides not only the treatment for addiction, but also the mental health services that a lot of these individuals need,” she said. “We also partner with St. Louis city and Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner as well.”

Holmes said by adding a location on the South Side, Affinia expects participation in the substance use treatment program to increase by 50 percent.

“The addiction piece is there, the treatment, but there are also behavioral health services that they receive,” Holmes said. “Also, they have access to all of our primary care services – they have access to medical, dental, pharmacy, laboratory; all of these services are encompassed in one building.”

The cost for individuals to participate in the medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program for substance use is about one-tenth of what it would cost to get locked up for a year.

“At Affinia for our MAT program for 12 months, the cost is $3,600,” Holmes said. “That’s really a small price when you are looking at it as opposed to incarceration for a year at the St. Louis County Justice Center, which is approximately $30,000.”

Holmes said it is a cost benefit to taxpayers to provide these types of services. More importantly, it offers troubled people a new opportunity.

The treatment itself is grant-funded through the Gateway to Better Health Program, she said.

For more information about services at Affinia, call 314-814-8507or visit affiniahealthcare.org.

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