At 91, Treating Opioid Addiction

Melissa Freeman (Photo via Amsterdam News)

Melissa Freeman runs a methadone clinic on the Lower East Side and a medical practice in Harlem – at 91 years old. She tells her story of being “on the front lines of the opioid epidemic” to Amsterdam News’ Stephon Johnson.

Freeman’s grandfather, a slave, was sold away from his mother as a child and was a teenager when the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. He eventually reunited with his mother and moved from the South to New York City where Freeman’s mother and uncle bought a two-family home in the Williamsbridge section of the Bronx.

Freeman would go on to graduate from Howard University College of Medicine in 1955, do a residency in internal medicine at Nassau University Medical Center and later work at Beth Israel Medical Center – where she has been for more than half a century. That was where she encountered the beginnings of the opioid crisis.

In 1981, Freeman opened her own internal medicine practice in Harlem. Today she goes between her practice and the Beth Israel-affiliated methadone clinic on the Lower East Side.

She speaks to Johnson about being a part of the early stages of the drug detoxification program at Beth Israel. Go to Amsterdam News to find out why all the patients were initially men, Freeman’s experience treating the first woman, and why the opioid crisis pushes her to continue working at the age of 91.

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