How one Wilmington clinic is handling treatment in a time of social distancing

The federal Office of National Drug Control Policy reported an unusually high number of opioid overdoses this year, yielding an 11.4% year-by-year increase in the first four months of 2020.

Wilmington is no exception.

Kenny House, VP of Clinical Services for Coastal Horizons, said the city’s Quick Response Team is reporting a spike in overdoses.

"If people have a more difficult time accessing their sources, whether their sources are from a family member or a doctor or a friend or a dealer on the street," House explained, "that impacts how and what people use and buy."

The QRT is a city task force that reaches out to survivors of opioid overdoses and tries to connect them with treatment.

"I believe in the month of May, QRT connected 20 to treatment," House said. "We usually range anywhere from 10-15 a month."

House added that a "whole array of stressors during a pandemic" may also be driving up overdoses.

"People’s sense of resources and their own anxiety and depression levels, you know what’s going wrong, people don’t have stable and happy home lives necessarily," said House.

To comply with social distancing orders, Coastal Horizons, a treatment center that runs Medication Assisted Treatment programs, has cautiously provided certain patients opioids to take home.

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According to House, the facility obtained medication leave waivers from state and federal governments and gave patients lock boxes so others couldn’t access the drugs.

Whether a patient can take drugs home, instead of using them under facility supervision, is determined by a series of risk factors.

"We’ve had to do an exercise every week of stratifying the risk of patients," House said, listing behavior, appearance, objective data, medical information and drug-testing results.

For those who qualify, staff has brought medication out to people’s cars to limit contact as Coastal Horizons has adjusted its in-person operations.

"We created spacing situations within the facility so people stayed at least six feet away from others," House said. "We also kept others coming to the clinic more frequently but space out times for medication."

The clinic has also mandated face coverings and temperature checks (both provided by staff), beefed up cleaning efforts and distributed N-95 masks to staff.

Reporter Jonathan Haynes can be reached at 910-343-2261 or