CLAREMONT — West Central Behavioral Health announced plans on Friday to open a Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) program for opioid addiction in its Substance Use Services clinic located at 251 Elm St.

MAT is the use of medications in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies for the treatment of substance use disorders. In the treatment of opioid addiction, Suboxone has become the predominantly prescribed drug.

Suboxone is comprised of two different drugs, buprenorphine and naloxone.

Buprenorphine is a “partial opioid agonist” that reduces the drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms without creating the euphoria, or “high” experienced in such opioids as heroin, fentanyl or oxycontin. Buprenorphine is termed a “partial opioid” because it works similarly to opioids by connecting with the brain’s receptors and producing a response.

Naloxone is an “opioid antagonist,” which blocks the opioid receptors, as opposed to activating them like Buprenorphine does. Naloxone, which is also the active drug in Narcan, prevents any opioid drug from producing a rewarding, euphoric effect.

In short, Suboxone provides enough of the opioid to prevent withdrawal but blocks the receptors to keep the person from getting high, explained Robert Morrell, director of the Substance Use Treatment Service at the West Central Behavioral Health clinic.

What West Central Behavioral Health anticipates will distinguish its MAT program from others in the region is how it provides its therapeutic component.

West Central Behavioral Health’s program will be “highly personalized” with “individualized therapy,” said Dave Celone, director of development and community relations at West Central Behavioral Health.

Under West Central Behavioral Health’s program, each patient will initially participate in two individual sessions per week: one with the clinic’s doctor for medication management and one with a counselor for therapy. Morrell explained that the patient will follow this schedule until reaching a point of stability, in which the patient could reduce the number of weekly appointments. The initial period could run for eight weeks, but the time to demonstrate stability can vary from one patient to the next.

Morrell said the use of individual appointments distinguishes West Central Behavioral Health’s model from most MAT programs, which usually provide group therapy sessions.

“Group therapy can be wonderful, but it’s not right for everyone,” said Morrell, explaining that many patients feel more comfortable in a one-on-one relationship.

Another advantage is that West Central Behavioral Health is not a stand-alone clinic, but a larger mental health provider that treats the broader spectrum of mental illness and disorders, including depression, anxiety, trauma and other issues that frequently accompany addiction or play into a person’s substance use, according to Morrell. West Central Behavioral Health also works with community partners like Valley Regional Hospital and the Recovery Center on Sullivan Street to assist patients with the additional resources that recovering addicts need to sustain their stability and substance-free lifestyle.

Celone said that West Central Behavioral Health plans to begin client-intake for the program next month and expect the program to open in April.

West Central Behavioral Health has locations in Claremont, Lebanon and Newport for a range of services: adult outpatient, child and family services, substance abuse, residential and emergency. To learn more about West Central Behavioral Health’s MAT program or other services, please visit them online at

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