Dr. Larry Graham couldn't handle sending one more patient showing signs of substance abuse home without a clear path for follow-up treatment. He and his colleagues would try to secure appointments with addiction specialists only to come up empty or add them to a waitlist.
Hospitals turn to collaborative agreements to battle addiction crisis
Hospitals are teaming with community-based behavioral health providers to hasten access to treatment for patients battling addiction.
"We were reinventing the wheel every time someone came in or putting them on waiting lists, which we all know is really a death list," said Graham, president of the Behavioral Health Institute at Mercy Health, a system of hospitals based in Ohio. Eight to 10 people per day come in to the Mercy emergency department with drug overdoses. Often these patients would make repeat trips to the ED until they either got into a recovery program or died from an overdose.
To stop the cycle, Mercy began reaching out to addiction treatment providers last spring in hopes of expediting access to treatment. As of now, it has 10 collaborative agreements in place.
Mercy Health provides short-term, hospital-based detox before it transitions patients to an outpatient partner for long-term, medically assisted treatment and support. "Now, thanks to this collaborative agreement, calls are answered and people are getting the care they need," Graham said.
Instead of waiting days or longer to secure appointments at a recovery facility, people are able to immediately begin treatment, leaving no gaps in their care and much less potential for lethal relapses, Graham said. If a place is at capacity, addiction providers in the collaborative refer that patient to another facility.
The effort formally launched in November, but Graham did not yet have figures for how many patients have moved along the pathway.
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