Two new outpatient recovery facilities look to curb opiate abuse in Safford and surrounding areas

By Jon Johnson

SAFFORD – As the area awaits the possibility of an inpatient sober living house and/or a rehabilitation center, two outpatient facilities with different methods have set up shop in Safford with the hopes of curbing opiate addiction.

Community Medical Services

Community Medical Services (CMS), a nationally accredited outpatient addiction treatment organization based in Scottsdale, opened its Safford location at 102 E. Main St. on Tuesday. The facility is at the northeast corner of Main Street and 1st Avenue. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Community Medical Services is open for business.

According to CMS Regional Operations Director for Southern Arizona Haley Horton, the facility offers medication-assisted treatment through the use of either methadone or Suboxone as well as counseling services. Horton told the Gila Herald that patients are individually screened prior to dispensing the medication and that initial doses are minimal.

“We are a company that really is rooted in evidence-based practice, and since the 1940s evidence shows that these medications really help to allow the brain to recover from the constant craving for the drug so that we can teach and the individual can learn some psycho-social skills,” Horton said.

Methadone was created by German doctors during WWII. It changes the way a user’s brain and nervous system respond to pain while blocking the high a person would get from opiates.

Suboxone is the name of a drug that combines buprenorphine and naloxone to help reduce the symptoms of opiate addiction and withdrawal while also blocking any high a person would get from opiates.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: The facility is currently open for medication dispensing and counseling Monday -Friday from 5 – 10 a.m. and Saturday from 6 – 9 a.m.

In the CMS program, a patient starts with a minimal dose and must take the dose at the facility. That usually goes for at least the first 90 days, with an increase of dosage as needed per patient. After the initial 90 days, patients may graduate to being allowed to take medication home to use as prescribed, but that is strictly monitored.

CMS has been around since the 1980s and started in northern Arizona. In addition to its corporate office in Scottsdale, it operates five clinics in the Phoenix area and will open its fifth clinic in southern Arizona in the next few months.

The Safford location accepts a variety of insurance providers and is open Monday-Friday from 5 – 10 a.m. and Saturday from 6 – 9 a.m. They are closed on Sundays.

As of Wednesday, the facility has already enrolled five patients and has eight new intakes scheduled for next week, according to Horton. The facility will also have an open house Tuesday, June 5, from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

“Whatever we can do to help educate, we’re willing to do that,” Horton said. “It’s not about us getting clients, it’s about us meeting the community’s needs . . . We want to make sure we’re helping folks out.”

Awakening Recovery Center

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Awakening Recovery Center is located at 293 W. 5th St. in the building that formerly housed law offices for current judges Michael D. Peterson and Travis Ragland.

Awakening Recovery Center (ARC)is a full-service intensive outpatient counseling facility based in Tempe that uses abstinence-based therapies. The center specializes in the treatment of evidence-based therapeutic methods to aid in the recovery process and offers addiction treatment services for alcoholism, opiates and other drugs. They not only council those facing addiction issues but family members of a person going through addiction as well and offer individual and group sessions. 

ARC recently received a certificate of operation from the Department of Health Services and opened its new facility in Safford located at 293 W. 5th St. on Wednesday.

Jason Hutchings began ARC with Scott Payne four years ago. Hutchings told the Gila Herald that he will serve as the executive director of the Safford location with Payne serving as the clinical director.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Jason Hutchings serves as the executive director for Awakening Recovery Center’s Safford facility.

Hutchings said Mariah Hile, who previously worked with Hutchings at a rehabilitation facility in Chandler, was essential in peaking ARC’s interest in opening a local office. That led to Hutchings attending a town hall on substance abuse. Hile, along with Safford City Councilor Chris Taylor, were team captains for Recovery Addicts as part of the city’s pilot program Facing Addiction.

“I had never seen a community more supportive of trying to create avenues for help than I have here,” Hutchings said. “So that kind of took it over the top for us; just how engaged and concerned and how many people are behind doing something here and getting services here. It was overwhelming.”

The facility offers a 10-hour-per-week, eight-week program that is best utilized after an addict has already detoxed at some sort of rehabilitation facility and has returned to restart their lives, according to Hutchings. Once a patient completes the eight-week program, they are given a full year of counseling for them and their family at one session per week for free. 

“If somebody needs a detox center, they need to stabilize first before they can use our services,” Hutchings said.   

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Awakening Recovery Center Executive Director Jason Hutchings welcomes the public to tour the facility during its grand opening open house and ribbon cutting June 14.

The facility is open Tuesday – Thursday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Monday and Friday by appointment only. Walk-ins are welcome, but prospective patients can make an appointment by calling 928-428-8070 with the initial consultation being free and the service takes most insurances.

An open house and a ribbon-cutting event for its grand opening is set for June 14.

“We’re here to help,” Hutchings said. “If there’s anything that we can do, not only for helping people get resources, treatment, or counseling, but also just available to answer questions.”