by Phillip Manning ~ July 26th, 2013
Officials at the Sunshine Community Health Center say that two key programs will be able to continue while a new Medical Director is sought. When Dr. Mary Loeb’s contract as Medical Director was not renewed, questions arose regarding the future of some of the programs that area residents have come to rely on, including the Outpatient-Based Opiated Treatment, or OBOT, program and the state-funded free vaccine program.
Cici Schoenberger, Clinical Social Worker at the Sunshine Clinic, operates the OBOT program, where participants are prescribed the opiate substitute Suboxone . Prescribing Suboxone requires a specific DEA certification that can only be obtained by a medical doctor. Schoenberger says that Dr. Joan Friderici has taken the course and applied for the certification to prescribe Suboxone. The process can take four to six weeks. Schoenberger says that if there are no delays, program patients will be covered by the last prescription issued by Dr. Loeb, but that there is no backup if the process takes longer than expected.
Schoenberger says the potentially greater issue with the OBOT program is the patient-provider relationship that Dr. Loeb had established. She says that Dr. Loeb saw as many as half of the OBOT patients as their primary care physician, and that Dr. Loeb spent a great deal of time establishing trust. Schoenberger says that it’s hard for an addict to trust a doctor. She plans to work closely with Dr. Friderici, and says she has full confidence in her abilities, but that it will take time to re-establish the trust between the OBOT patients and a doctor they are less familiar with.
Concerns have also been raised about the state program that provides vaccines, free of charge, to those who have trouble affording them. Dr. Loeb was listed as the physician overseeing the program prior to her dismissal. According to Executive Director David Bryant, the Community Health Center has re-applied for the program using Dr. Anne Yoshino, who will be serving as a provider through mid-September. Once Dr. Yoshino leaves, the program will need to be transitioned again, but Bryant says that there is no waiting period from the state once an application is submitted, and that the program should be able to continue as normal. In the interim, Bryant says the Community Health Center has been in contact with the Mat-Su public health nurse in order to make sure there is no gap in the free vaccine program.