By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Aegis's Mitchell Road opioid treatment clinic opens today
Aegis opening
Supervisor Jim DeMartini was one of those who turned out for the March 4 ribbon cutting of the Aegis clinic at 1768 Mitchell Road, Suite 301. The public access will be on the rear (east) side of the building as seen here. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Aegis Treatment Centers, the largest outpatient treatment provider in California for opioid addiction, will open its opioid treatment program today at 1768 Mitchell Avenue, Suite 301, in Ceres.

The Ceres center is Aegis’ 36th center in California and the second in Stanislaus County. Aegis treats almost 1,000 men and women daily at its nearby Modesto location.

Aegis is a methadone clinic where a person who is addicted to opioid-based drugs, such as heroin or prescription painkillers, can receive medication-based therapy and counseling. Patients receive methadone, or Dolophine, which is an opioid analgesic. Other drugs administered are buprenorphine under the brand of Subutex. This treatment is often referred to as replacement therapy.

When patients first come in, they meet with a doctor, said Rebecca Mitchell, Aegis regional clinic manager for North Central Valley, and be assessed medically as well as see a counselor. Doctors will prescribe medications and once stable and attending counseling and showing they are active in society, they can earn “take homes,” or medications they can take at home.

The drugs are used to prevent the onset of opioid withdrawal and, via the phenomenon of cross-tolerance development with regular use, block the effects of opiate pain medications, including morphine, codeine, oxycodone, and other semi-synthetic opioids. Although the treatment must be prescribed by a doctor, it is not a cure for addiction issues. It is nonetheless considered effective during the treatment and rehabilitation process as part of a comprehensive treatment program.

Owned by Pinnacle Treatment Centers, a leading drug and alcohol addiction treatment services provider headquartered in New Jersey, Aegis continues to expand its presence throughout California.

Aegis Ceres will provide the full range of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) services, including FDA-approved medicines methadone and buprenorphine to curb withdrawal symptoms from heroin and opioid addiction; prevent relapse; and quell the physical discomfort that frequently accompanies recovery from opioid use disorder. In addition to medication, individual and group counseling will be offered as part of a whole-patient approach to care.

Prescription painkiller abuse, rising heroin use, and overdoses are part of a nationwide crisis. Research shows that the integration of both behavioral and pharmacologic therapy is the most effective approach to overcoming opioid addiction and is considered the gold standard of treatment.

“The stigma attached to methadone programs is a significant barrier to treatment and recovery for people who need it most,” said Holly Broce, MHA, LCADC, Senior Vice President, OTP Division, Pinnacle Treatment Centers. “Thankfully, many see methadone treatment for what it really is and the value it truly provides: a legitimate, evidence-based medical treatment for opioid use disorder backed by 50 years of clinical data.”

The opioid crisis has affected both urban and rural communities. California saw more than 2,000 opioid deaths in 2017, according to the California Department of Public Health. Stanislaus County experienced 35 opioid-related overdose deaths in 2018, and 50 in 2019 – a 43 percent increase.

“We are so grateful to finally be able to open our doors to the residents of Ceres and surrounding areas, especially during this time when communities are experiencing increased levels of stress and anxiety,” said Rebecca Mitchell, the regional clinic manager for Aegis’ North Central Valley.

Core treatment services at the Ceres facility include assessment, education about substance use disorders, individualized treatment plans and patient-centered individual and group counseling. In addition, peer-based support will be integrated into programming.

Among the evidence-based and holistic therapeutic treatment approaches at Aegis Ceres are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing, relapse prevention, teaching life skills, contingency management, mindfulness, and stress and relaxation techniques.

The center also will offer specialized programming for pregnant patients, gender-specific groups, and culture-specific groups.

About two years ago representatives of Aegis approached the city looking for a place in Ceres, stating their preference was for Turlock but Ceres as a backup for demand for such a service and alleviate pressure to meet demand at its Modesto clinic. The Turlock location fell through so Aegis came back to Ceres, opting for the strip mall on the east side of Mitchell Road just south of Walmart.

Aegis gave the community an introductory peek of the facility in early March during a ribbon-cutting celebration attended by approximately 100 stakeholders including staff from local officials.

“We are so happy that our community partner, Aegis, is opening its Ceres location,” said Dawn Vercelli, Chief, Substance Use Disorder Services, Stanislaus County Behavioral Health & Recovery Services. “Their new center will help hundreds of individuals every day, save many lives from potential overdose, and provide hope during trying times.”

Not all in the community have been as receptive. Last August a group of Ceres residents led by Amber Maines rallied against the facility at a City Council meeting, expressing fears over loitering, stealing and other crimes by patients. The council said the medical facility was a permitted use for Aegis. Later the city changed the Zoning Ordinance to make methadone clinics require a conditional use permit.

Aegis Ceres accepts Medical, Medicare, commercial insurance, and offers reasonable self-pay rates. The center is open weekdays, 5:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and on weekends, 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Anyone needing a free confidential assessment may call 353-4838.