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Northern Wisconsin Clinic Receives $5M Loan For Drug Treatment Expansion

USDA Loan Will Allow Expansion Of Health Services At 4 Clinics

Tammy Baldwin
Photo courtesy of Natalie Gustafson of NorthLakes Community Clinic

Community health centers in northern Wisconsin will see around $5 million to help expand treatment for addiction. The money will also go toward providing more access to medical, behavioral and dental care at four clinics in the region.

NorthLakes Community Clinic recently bought a building in downtown Ashland that will enhance treatment for opioid, methamphetamine and alcohol abuse. Executive Director Reba Rice said the clinic will use part of a $5 million U.S. Department of Agriculture loan to renovate that building to provide more space for services.

“More space for group treatment, which is a really effective treatment modality for opiate and, actually, even a larger problem for us here in Ashland is methamphetamine abuse,” she said.

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Rice said they’ve served more than 500 patients in the Ashland area for substance abuse in less than two years. NorthLakes’ new building will also house additional occupational therapy, chiropractic services, and dental care.

“That’s very exciting to have, then finally all of our services in Ashland under one roof on Main Street,” she said.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, helped secure funding for the clinic’s expansion and made a stop Thursday at their new building in Ashland. Baldwin said more is needed to promote substance abuse recovery, including transitional housing.

“One of the surest obstacles to recovery is to immediately return to a living situation where you are in contact with other users of drugs,” she said.

Baldwin added there seems to be a growing consensus among community partners that addiction is not a criminal issue, but a health problem.

“Despite the fact that there are certainly crimes committed that are associated with drug use and drug abuse,” she said.

More work needs to be done to eliminate the stigma surrounding those suffering from addiction, Rice said.

“There’s absolutely no reason that anybody who’s suffering from substance use disorders should feel any shame about that,” she said. “It’s a disease just like diabetes or heart disease, and people should feel free to get the care that they need.”

Ashland County had the same rate of prescription-opioid related deaths from 2013-2015 as Dane County, according to most recent figures from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. However, the department advises caution when comparing county rates due to the variability in demographics and populations. Northern Wisconsin has also seen some of the highest rates for prescription drug hospitalizations and babies born with drug dependency.

NorthLakes’ Rice said the USDA loan will also go toward expanding medical, dental and behavioral health services at clinics in Iron River, Hayward and Turtle Lake.