CEDAR POINT —There’s a new option in western Carteret County for opioid users who want to change their lives for the better.
This month, Dr. Brack Jefferys opened Bear Island Recovery Services, a mental health and methadone clinic in the leased former Sound Bank building on the south side of Highway 24 in Cedar Point.
“I saw a need,” Dr. Jefferys said in an interview Thursday. “This area has been underserved,” much like many smaller, rural regions of the state and country.
Other methadone clinics in the area include the Morehead City Treatment Center on North 35 Street and the Jacksonville Treatment Center on Bell Fork Road.
Dr. Jefferys said he knows there are people who need the help, including vacationers who are on methadone and away from their normal clinic.
According to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ records, there were 60 opioid emergency department visits in Carteret County between January and the end of July, as well as 75 in neighboring Onslow County and 125 in neighboring Craven County.
Dr. Jefferys has operated similar facilities in Asheville and Waynesville for years and has been in the field for 38 years.
“One of the myths about methadone is that is just a ‘drug replacement’ for opioids,” he said. “Nothing could be further from truth. It stops the cravings and withdrawal symptoms for 24 hours without sedation.”
A methadone patient does not get high, he said, and under a good program is able to work and maintain a normal life. Methadone also blocks the effects of other drugs.
“You cannot help a dead addict,” he said.
Dr. Jefferys, 62 and in recovery himself, said he still attends 12-step meetings and he “basically walked into a clinic and never left” decades ago.
“The process of coming to the truth of addiction varies,” he said. “You might be sitting in jail and say, ‘This is how I got here.’ Or you might drive your kids home loaded and suddenly realize you need help.
“It doesn’t have to be anything catastrophic. But when it happens,” he continued, “and you want to get help, that’s why we are here.”
Bear Island doesn’t have the typical hard chairs you see in many methadone clinics, he said, but instead comfy chairs and sofas, and they don’t call patients by numbers to get their doses.
“Who wants to be called by a number?” he said. “That’s depersonalizing. The essence of recovery is connection.”
A good program, Dr. Jefferys continued, enables a patient to reconnect to their community and become a productive member.
He said he wants his business to be connected not just to patients, but to the wider community.
“We live here,” he said. “We’re not some giant corporation from California or New York buying up methadone clinics.”
The Cedar Point facility has been licensed since March, Dr. Jefferys said Thursday, and finally saw its first patients Aug. 19. The corporation was listed with the N.C. Secretary of State’s office in March 2020, with an Asheville address and Dr. Jefferys as registered agent.
“It’s been a long process, but we’re glad to finally be open and able to help people,” he noted.
The doctor said working with individuals struggling with addiction is a business, of course, but it’s also meaningful and important work.
Carteret County Sheriff Asa Buck said he’s talked to Dr. Jeffreys and hopes he is successful in treating those fighting addiction.
He said there are differing opinions on whether methadone leads to full recovery for those addicted to opioids, but believes it helps some lead productive lives. The opioid problem is still serious in Carteret County, Sheriff Buck added, and he knows different methods of recovery work for different people.
“We had 35 deaths (from opioids) last year and have had 25 so far this year,” Sheriff Buck said. “It’s a serious problem. Hopefully, (Dr. Jeffreys) can help some people. He seems to have his act together.”
He, like Dr. Jefferys, noted Sound Bank left behind a safe to store the medicine.
After a little more than one week open, Bear Island has served 12 patients, which Dr. Jefferys called “pretty good since nobody knows we’re here.”
The doctor, who said he plans to retire here, is also listed by the state as registered agent for Intentional Longevity Inc., also in Asheville. That corporation, registered in 2014, is still active and does business as Katharos Sanctuary in Asheville. Katharos is a methadone and suboxone clinic. He also owns Pisgah Recovery Services in Waynesville.
Dr. Jefferys said he earned his Ph.D. in psychology from California Coast University in Santa Ana and his bachelor’s degrees in sociology and psychology from the state University of New York. He’s also licensed as a mental health counselor in North Carolina and as a clinical addictions specialist.
He said Bear Island will provide counseling for those who are not on methadone or a similar substance.
The Cedar Point facility is also staffed by an administrative assistant, Joan Hamilton, senior counselor Krystal Lamb, a medical doctor, Jeffrey Seder, and a registered nurse, Annette Keaton, two of whom have lived in Carteret County for years.
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email firstname.lastname@example.org; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.