The only thing harder than beating an opioid addiction is doing it alone.

That’s the guiding philosophy of GROUPS, the Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) recovery program for people with an opioid addiction, that recently opened in Inverness.

GROUPS combines the physician-prescribed dosage of Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone) with weekly small group therapy sessions led by a licensed counselor and monthly visits with a doctor or nurse practitioner to provide its members/clients with a program for success.

Get more from the Citrus County Chronicle

“One of the primary missions is to be a respectful place where people suffering opioid use disorder can find dignity and high-quality treatment,” said Seth Kaminsky, GROUPS state director.

It’s not a place that just doles out a prescription or kicks you out if you relapse, said Whitney Hughson, GROUPS business development manager. “That’s not how we operate. We want people to feel a sense of dignity.”

Currently, the for-profit recovery program has more than 80 locations in 12 states serving almost 8,000 GROUPS members since it began in 2014 in New Hampshire.

So far in Florida, Inverness is one of five locations in the state since December 2020, with seven more opening by the end of 2021.

Florida locations are: Orange Park, Ocala, Port Richey, Bradenton and Inverness. Coming locations are: Brooksville, Lakeland, Port Charlotte, Largo, North Fort Myers, Volusia County and Titusville.

“We tend to open in more rural areas because that’s where there’s a huge need,” Hughson said. “Access to high-quality treatment is a big thing when it comes to treatment.”

Currently, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the GROUPS program is still virtual/online, although they hope to resume with in-person services by fall.

To join GROUPS, a person first calls 407-392-0849 to be scheduled for an intake evaluation with a counselor who will then schedule a medical/treatment history intake by a doctor or nurse practitioner within 24 hours.

After that, the person is placed on a therapeutic dose of Suboxone and gets set up with a weekly group therapy session and a care navigator for case management.

Program costs, excluding the cost of the Suboxone prescription, covers everything, including drug screens and a monthly doctor’s visit.

They take insurance, Medicaid and Medicare or self-pay, which is $65 per week.

Also, discount programs like GoodRx currently offer coupons for Suboxone.

“Ability to pay should never be a barrier to high-quality treatment," Kaminsky said.

He added that they encourage people to stay with GROUPS treatment for 18 to 24 months.

“The longer people are engaged in treatment, the better chance they have at success,” he said.

It gives people the time they need to deal with their issues and to slowly wean themselves from the Suboxone.

“We are a harm-reduction program,” he said. “We don’t discharge people because of a relapse. There’s such a stigma in this industry, that if you don’t play by the rules of the treatment provider you’re kicked out — and then what? Who does that serve? Who does that help?

“If you’re diabetic and you eat a doughnut, you’re not kicked out of your doctor’s office. Yet, in this industry that happens often, but that’s not us,” he said. “We recognize this is a chronic disease and that recovery is a fluid process ... and we work with people. We want them to succeed.”

GROUPS is at 2216 W. State Road 44, Inverness (behind RaceTrac in the complex where DynaBody is). 

For more information, visit JoinGroups.com.

Contact Chronicle reporter Nancy Kennedy at 352-564-2927 or nkennedy@chronicleonline.com. Read more of Nancy's stories at tinyurl.com/yxt69grh