weather icon Clear

Adelson drug abuse clinic in Las Vegas marks 20 years of saving lives

Updated February 13, 2020 - 7:47 pm

Many times Crystal Clamenza had noticed the sign that said “drug abuse treatment” on her way to the park where she and her partner would sleep.

They were addicts, first hooked on her partner’s painkillers prescribed for a back injury, and then, when the prescriptions dried up, on heroin. Little by little, they sold the car, home and possessions her partner had inherited from his parents, all to buy drugs.

Then one morning, when there was no money left, she walked into the Adelson Clinic for Drug Abuse Treatment & Research on Maryland Parkway, looking for a methadone fix so she wouldn’t feel sick.

Dinita Smith, the clinic’s director, remembers that morning, how Clamenza showed up unkempt and hungry, with only a can of ravioli to eat.

Clamenza was also pregnant. Despite having no way to pay for services, the clinic, which usually charges a sliding fee, got her into treatment that day, Smith said.

Fast forward 20 months. Clamenza, who halted her heroin use after her first week in treatment, is scheduled to speak at a luncheon Friday to celebrate the clinic’s 20th anniversary.

“They saved our lives,” Clamenza said of the clinic and its staff in an interview this week.

Medication and counseling

The Adelson Clinic is a private nonprofit founded by local philanthropists Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson. Dr. Adelson specializes in internal medicine, emergency medicine and chemical dependency and drug addiction. Sheldon Adelson is chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp.

“Wanting to help the community where she resides, (Dr. Adelson) founded, sponsors and manages two major drug abuse treatment and research centers, one in Las Vegas and one in Tel Aviv,” the clinic’s website states.

The Las Vegas clinic, which offers services to both adults and teens, is currently treating 271 patients and has treated 1,800 over its 20 years of operation, Smith said.

The clinic treats addiction to opioids such as painkillers and heroin by providing medications such as methadone and, on a more limited basis, buprenorphine for what is described as “maintenance treatment.” Patients at first typically come in six days a week to get their doses, which they take orally.

Methadone, the primary drug used to treat opioid-use disorder, is a synthetic opioid that eliminates withdrawal symptoms and relieves drug cravings by acting on opioid receptors in the brain — the same receptors that other opioids such as heroin, morphine and opioid pain medications activate, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“Although it occupies and activates these opioid receptors, it does so more slowly than other opioids and, in an opioid-dependent person, treatment doses do not produce euphoria,” according to the federal research institute.

“Patients undergoing maintenance treatment do not experience the physiological or behavioral abnormalities from rapid fluctuations in drug levels associated with heroin use. “

In addition to medication, the clinic also provides individual and group counseling.

Patient Joshua Domsky said his counselor, Kairo Henderson, played a big part in helping him stay sober.

“She guides me in the right direction,” he said. “She’s always on my case about doing good. And it’s good support to have. So with the counseling, the medication and me really wanting to be clean, all those things together made it happen.

“And know that you really do need help,” continued Domsky, 35, who became addicted to oxycodone after a motorcyle accident at age 15. “You can’t do it on your own. I’d say it’s close to impossible. I’ve tried over and over and over, and I could never do it.”

Respect, food and showers

Clamenza said she didn’t know what to expect when she and her partner first walked through the clinic’s doors in June 2018.

“I didn’t have any money,” said Clamenza, now 36. “We didn’t know what to do. … So we were just planning on coming in here and maybe see if we can get some methadone so that we wouldn’t be sick. And we ended up staying here.

“We showered here, they gave us food, blankets, clothes,” she said.

“It’s important to treat everyone with dignity and respect,” Smith said. It is her belief and Dr. Adelson’s, she said, that “anyone that walks through this door is definitely interested in getting better. Sometimes they just don’t know how.”

Clamenza said she was motivated to get better by fear that her baby would be taken away.

“I knew that I could take methadone and be pregnant and still keep my baby,” said Clamenza, who already had lost one baby to child protective services. “I just had to get some — some control — back in my life.”

Just as she’d lost everything, little by little she began to get her life back.

“They helped us fight for a place to live,” she said of the clinic staff. “They weren’t gonna just let us be on the street.”

The couple stopped living on the streets within two months of beginning treatment, and, now, with help from their family, they’re living in their own condo.

“We have relationships with our families that we’ve never had before,” Clamenza said.

She has married her baby’s father, who also is being successfully treated and has a new job.

Clamenza focuses now on taking care of their daughter, who is 18 months old.

“She’s healthy, she’s beautiful,” Clamenda said, beaming. “She’s a quick learner.”

After months of sobriety, Clamenza is allowed to take medication home in a lockbox and come to the clinic three days a week instead of six.

Some patients eventually will taper off methadone. But Smith said ending its use is not the measure of success.

“Success,” she said, “is when you see behavior changes.”

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson, founders of the Adelson Clinic for Drug Abuse Treatment & Research.

Contact Mary Hynes at mhynes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0336. Follow @MaryHynes1 on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Local Videos
New Real ID requirements
What you need to know about the Real ID's and why it may be important for you to have one if you don't have a passport.
Major US 95 road project in downtown Las Vegas could cost $1B - VIDEO
The Nevada Department of Transportation wants to reconfigure a 4-mile portion of U.S. 95 between Rancho Drive and Mojave Road at an estimated cost of $1 billion. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Double amputee veteran climbs stairs at Strat
Travis Strong, who lost both of his legs by a bomb in Baghdad in 2006, climbed 108 levels and 1,455 stairs at the Strat. The event brought 1,000 climbers out to raise money for the American Lung Association in Nevada.
Why does the vote count take so long?
RJ political reporter Rory Appleton discusses the vote counting process and why it takes so long.
Doolittle Community Center hosts caucuses - VIDEO
The Doolittle Community Center hosted six precincts in one room for the Nevada Democratic caucuses, and voters engaged in debate and discussion about who to lead each precinct, Feb. 22, 2020. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Caucus day in Summerlin - VIDEO
Out-of-state caucus observer Ken Valz speaks about the Nevada Democratic caucuses at Palo Verde High School, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Caucus day at East Last Vegas Community Center - VIDEO
Registration begins at the East Las Vegas Community Center for the Nevada Democratic caucuses, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Democratic caucus-goers lined up to register at Liberty High - VIDEO
Democratic caucus-goers lined up to register at Liberty High in Henderson, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Thousands gather for Trump rally
Thousands showed up for President Donald Trump’s rally Friday morning, forming a line that stretched nearly a quarter mile around the Las Vegas Convention Center.
President Trump speaks to the graduates of the Hope for Prisoners program in Las Vegas - VIDEO
President Donald Trump, along with the founder/CEO of Hope for Prisoners, John Ponder, and Las Vegas Metro Police Department officials, spoke to the graduates of the program, encouraging them to get back into society to be successful, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. (James Schaeffer and Renee Summerour/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Presidential candidates go after Michael Bloomberg
Tonight’s 2020 Democratic Debate was a full-blown attack on former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Candidates attacked his past policies, his record with stop and frisk and his billionaire status garnishing him a spot on the presidential trail, all while defending their own policies. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pigeons wearing MAGA hats in Las Vegas - VIDEO
A flock of pigeons wearing Make America Great Again hats and one sporting a Donald Trump hairdo invaded downtown Las Vegas late Tuesday, following their release by an anonymous group: P.U.T.I.N. (Pigeons, United to Interfere Now). (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tuesday is last day to early vote in Nevada Democratic caucuses - VIDEO
Early voting in the Nevada Democratic caucuses ends Tuesday, with sites open throughout Clark County. (Michael Quine and James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Senator Amy Klobuchar Interview with RJ Editorial Board
Sen. Klobuchar speaks with the Las Vegas Review Journal Editorial Board regarding key points to her campaign strategies for Nevada and for the country.
North Las Vegas school holds vigil for 2 children hit by pickup - VIDEO
Dozens of parents and students took part in a candlelight vigil at a North Las Vegas school Saturday night on behalf of two young students struck by a truck at a nearby crosswalk. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Two years until “I Do” - VIDEOY
Las Vegas locals Sam Cruz and Jeff Gaglione discuss their engagement, in their future wedding venue at Emerald at Queensridge in Las Vegas, on Monday, Feb. 3, 2020. (Elizabeth Page Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @elipagephoto
Visible progress on Henderson community ice arena
Construction crews are making visible progress on a Vegas Golden Knights community ice arena in downtown Henderson.
Video shows man stealing money gifts from Las Vegas wedding - VIDEO
A man sneaked into a wedding Saturday in the western Las Vegas Valley and stole most of the monetary gifts, according to the groom’s sister. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Fire closes Nellis Boulevard in northeast Las Vegas - VIDEO
Authorities said a vacant mobile home caught fire Tuesday afternoon and spread to adjectment mobile homes, according to a news release from the Clark County Fire Department. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Alpine Motel Apartment residents want belongings left behind in fire
District Judge Rob Bare began hearing arguments Tuesday afternoon to decide if former residents of the Alpine Motel Apartments can finally collect the belongings they were forced to abandon as they escaped a deadly December fire.
Missing hiker's sister on staying hopeful - Video
Karsta Lucas, the sister of Ronnie Lucas, a hiker missing at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, said Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, that family members remain hopeful the 33-year-old diabetic will be found safe despite spending two nights in the open without his insulin. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Search continues for missing hiker at Red Rock Canyon - Video
Volunteers come out to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area west of Las Vegas to help find a hiker, Ronnie Lucas, who went missing on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas High School Alumni Association helps historic school - VIDEO
Rollie Gibbs, a 1954 graduate and president of the Las Vegas High School Alumni Association, talks about the school's history and his group's donation to help preserve what is now called Las Vegas Academy. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Search for missing hiker at Red Rock Canyon - Video
Red Rock Search & Rescue is looked for the missing hiker at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area on Monday, Feb. 10, 2010. The man was reported missing on Sunday. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CITYPAK distributes backpacks to homeless people in Las Vegas - VIDEO
The CITYPAK Project held a backpack distribution event at the Las Vegas Rescue Mission. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Fire injures one at Bridger Inn Hotel in downtown Las Vegas - VIDEO
Anna Ramirez, a resident the Bridger Inn Hotel in downtown Las Vegas, tells her experience of getting out of the building during a fire early Friday morning, Feb. 7, 2020. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County Fire Department change of command ceremony - VIDEO
Outgoing Clark County Fire Department Chief Greg Cassell turns over command of the department to incoming Chief John Steinbeck during a ceremony at the Clark County Government Center in Las Vegas Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
South Korea flight lands in Las Vegas after first diverted to L.A. - VIDEO
Three passengers aboard a Las Vegas-bound flight from Seoul were screened in Los Angeles after customs officials flagged them for traveling through China recently amid a global reaction to the coronavirus. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police briefing about Excalibur fire
Las Vegas police say a sexual assault and hotel fire Wednesday morning at the Excalibur are connected. (Alexis Egeland/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Coronavirus medical supplies sent to China from Las Vegas law office
Legal assistant Michelle Zhang, who has family in China working in hospitals affected by the coronavirus, talks about responding to requests for medical supplies during an interview at the law offices of Eric K. Chen in Las Vegas Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas Fire spokesman brief media on apartment fire
Las Vegas Fire and Rescue Spokesman Tim Szymanski updates news media about apartment fire. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Teens burglarize Summerlin home
Dr. Paul Wilkes’ Summerlin home was robbed while his realtor gave a group a tour during an open house on Sunday. The crime was captured on his home surveillance system.
Fire at Las Vegas Apartment
A fire caused heavy damage to an apartment building in the west Las Vegas Valley on Tuesday afternoon, officials said. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas ready to enforce homeless camping ban - VIDEO
Las Vegas police will begin enforcing a controversial camping ban on city streets on Saturday, but officials say they expect to impose the penalties available under the new ordinance only in rare instances. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Officials celebrate opening of Las Vegas park named for slain officer - Video
Top public officials came together Friday morning to celebrate the grand opening of Officer Alyn Beck Memorial Park in the northwest valley, named after a police officer killed in the line of duty in 2014. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Wrong-way driver causes fatal crash near Las Vegas airport, authorities say - VIDEO
A suspected impaired motorist driving the wrong way on the Airport Connector caused a crash that killed another driver near McCarran International Airport early Friday morning, Jan. 17, 2020, according to law enforcement. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The car that Tupac was shot in is for sale - VIDEO
The vehicle that legendary rapper Tupac Shakur was riding in when he was shot after a boxing match in Las Vegas is up for auction. The black 1996 BMW 7 Series is listed by Celebrity Cars Las Vegas for $1.75 million. (Angus Kelly/Las Vegas Review-Journal)