Buncombe Health Director resigns to start substance abuse clinic

Eight months after she was hired, Dr. Vicki Ittel, the Buncombe County Health Director, has announced that she will resign March 28. She is resigning to set up a clinic that will focus on treating substance abuse, specifically addiction to prescription pain killers.

“This is a really amazing opportunity,” Ittel told Xpress about the clinic, which she will open with three other physicians. “This is a pressing issue. We’ll be using a dual approach of mental health and medical treatment. There’s a breatkthrough treatment called suboxone that can be administered at a doctor’s office, but there’s not really much access to it in this area.”

Hired last August to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of longtime Health Director George Bond, Ittel said that while her tenure in the position was short, she felt progress had been made on her primary goal — increasing access to health care.

“We now have 30 same-day appointments available, that means that a lot of people don’t have to wait,” Ittel said. “We accomplished that through some re-engineering and reorganization of how we did things.”

She also touted the department’s cooperation with Western North Carolina Health Services to provide dental care to the uninsured and Medicare recipients, but said that many of the same concerns about access will also face her successor.

“We have more people coming into Buncombe every day, and more uninsured,” she said. “It’s the same problem of figuring out how to do more and more with the same resources.”

—David Forbes, staff writer

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