Babies are being born in opioid withdrawal after being exposed in utero. Children are being moved to foster care after losing a parent to addiction. Younger people are dying due to the overdose of opioids.
This is a national crisis.
While a national effort is needed to address this crisis, Memorial Healthcare System in Broward County is doing its part at a community level, offering programs that are tackling the core of the issue – the addiction.
“We have a task force that is working on addressing the opioid epidemic from multiple levels,” said Tammy Tucker, Psy.D., Associate Administrator, Memorial Regional Hospital, who leads the task force for Memorial Healthcare System and speaks nationally about ways to address the opioid crisis. “Our programs are either breaking the cycle of addiction for some patients, and for others, we are trying to stop and prevent the cycle from starting in the first place. What makes our approach unique is that we have a comprehensive program.”
Memorial Healthcare System received $500K at the end of the 2018 Legislature session to continue treating not only the medical complications of opioid addiction, but also implementing innovative approaches to engage persons in substance abuse treatment, support their recovery and prevent additional opioid overdoses.
Breaking the cycle of addition
On the forefront of breaking the cycle of addiction is the Memorial Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) program, an evidence-based approach aimed at sustaining recovery by addressing drug cravings and behavioral issues. Some patients are referred by the courts, families, social service providers or other sources.
Nonetheless, the majority of patients come through the Emergency Department as overdose victims. These patients are screened and offered MAT with continued initial stabilization until they can follow up in an outpatient setting.
The process starts when a patient addicted to opioids presents in the Emergency Department. The patient is evaluated, a MAT consult order is placed, and a nurse or social worker from behavioral health evaluates the patient and offers the MAT program. As needed, the patient and/or their family is provided a Narcan Kit for harm reduction, and the patient is linked with behavioral health services to facilitate a transition from hospital to community services.
A Narcan Kit is a nasal spray for the emergency treatment of a known or suspected opioid overdose. The Emergency Department is providing the kits to patients and families in an effort to save lives. Between August 2017 and April 2018, Memorial Healthcare System has distributed 313 kits to patients with opioid addiction, with 15 kits being used to reverse an overdose.
“While we are seeing an increase in this type of visit, we are also seeing a higher increase in patients screened through the MAT program and being converted to a plan of care that will help break that addiction,” Tucker said. “We are seeing positive results.”
Other community programs administered by Memorial that help people recover from opioid addiction and address the opioid crisis include:
- Memorial Hospital Pembroke Inpatient Medical Detoxification: A voluntary service that medically manages withdrawal symptoms in a hospital setting for patients addicted to alcohol and/or controlled substance. The patient stays an average of 3 to 5 days and is discharged with follow-up care at treatment programs to prevent relapse. “We are very pleased to offer patients a program as a first step on the road to recovery,” said Mark Doyle, Chief Executive Officer of Memorial Hospital Pembroke.
- Mothers in Recovery: Program focuses on treating addiction in pregnancy with the goal of helping mothers deliver healthy, drug-free babies. Pregnant women receive comprehensive substance abuse treatment, including behavioral treatment, integrated obstetric care, and psychiatric follow up, case management, supportive housing and other program features to help break the cycle of addiction. In the last 3 years, the program has helped 105 women with 81 live births (73 or 90% of the babies born drug free.) This program is based at Memorial Regional Hospital.
- Long-Acting Therapy Clinic (LAT Clinic): Provides long-acting injectable Naltrexone for patients battling addiction with opioids and/or alcohol and in danger of relapsing once out of the hospital. These monthly injections help control drug cravings so the person can focus on his or her recovery.
Another major component of all the programs offered by Memorial is the inclusion of peer specialists. Peer specialists are people with lived experience, as they are in recovery from mental health and substance abuse disorders. Peers provide a warm transition for patients and assists them with navigation of the healthcare system and the process of recovery. For patients who decline MAT services, the peer program serves as a point of contact and follows up with these individuals to provide support and encouragement to engage in treatment.