WELLFLEET — The first clinic in the region to offer intensive in-person counseling to patients battling substance use disorders is currently in the works and would operate in the building on Route 6 where Outer Cape Health Services has its pharmacy.
OCHS has been running its Structured Outpatient Addiction Program (SOAP) for patients with substance use or co-occurring mental health disorders since 2021, but its programming has all been online.
The SOAP program lasts four to eight weeks and consists of short-term, clinically intensive and structured day services. Currently the program meets virtually from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays for group counseling on topics related to recovery and relapse prevention. Patients also receive weekly individual sessions, case management, and discharge planning, according to the Outer Cape Health Services website.
The new clinic would add an alternative for in-person therapy, according to OCHS spokesman Gerry Desautels.
“The need for such services on the underserved rural Outer Cape is well documented,” said Desautels in an email. “To date, we have received a combination of private and government funding for the project buildout at the newly renamed OCHS AIM Center.”
The proposal, which has just begun the permitting process at Wellfleet’s regulatory boards, calls for four counseling rooms, an administrative office, a reception and waiting area, an outdoor meeting and counseling space, and a 20-person group counseling room. Of the six employees who would work there, four would be clinical social workers.
The clinic is envisioned to operate year-round, according to project documents. Mental health services will be limited to behavioral health counseling only.
“The proposed clinic will allow for a comfortable space for patients to receive therapeutic and peer support multiple days a week,” OCHS wrote in its special permit application to the zoning board of appeals.
The building at 2700 Route 6 currently houses the OCHS Pharmacy and Duck Creek Animal Clinic, both of which will remain. The new clinic would go into a currently vacant 1,900-square-foot area, which had historically been used as retail space.
While there won’t be any changes to the size of the 60-year-old building, new windows and sliding doors will be added, along with 13 parking spaces according to the proposal.
Because more than 10 parking spaces will be added, the town’s bylaws require a review by the planning board prior to consideration of the special permit by the zoning board.
The need for recovery services continues to rise. Opioid-related deaths in Massachusetts rose almost 9 percent between 2020 and 2021. The state Dept. of Public Health reported 2,290 confirmed and estimated overdose deaths in 2021, 185 more than the year before.
“The rise in death rates reflects the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and increasingly poisoned drug supply, primarily with the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl,” DPH states on its website.
The SOAP regimen is recommended for people who have completed an inpatient treatment program or who want to work on their recovery in an “intensive, outpatient setting,” according to the OCHS website. It is the most intensive form of treatment for addiction short of residential care.