Summa Barberton Hospital’s ER is now providing medication-assisted treatment and other services to ease drug cravings and jump-start recovery for addicts who seek emergency care for an overdose.
Through a pilot program supported by United Way of Summit County, Summa Health recently hired a full-time addiction care coordinator to work in the Barberton emergency department during the overnight hours, when statistics have shown that the majority of overdose cases occur.
The coordinator works with ER doctors to provide medication-assisted treatment in the emergency room for eligible patients who are interested.
Recovering addicts from Packard Institute serving as “recovery coaches” also are on call to come to the Barberton ER to guide the patients to recovery resources in the community.
United Way and Summa officials are hoping to expand the care-coordination program to a 24-hour model.
Too often, the same patients are treated in the emergency department for an overdose only to return after subsequent overdoses because they don’t know where to turn for help, said Dr. Gregory Smith, medical director of Summa’s Barberton emergency department and the health system’s other freestanding ERs.
“Patients want this,” he said of the new ER program. “Now we have measures to help them.”
Very few emergency departments across the state administer medication-assisted treatment with buprenorphine or vivitrol, which aid recovery from opioid addiction by reducing cravings, said Mairin Mancino, Summa’s director of advocacy.
The new program originally started as one of only three pilot programs in Ohio from a state grant at Summa’s Barberton campus earlier this year. The United Way got involved because the effort matches one of its “bold goals” to reduce overdose cases in area ERs to 1,000 countywide by 2025. In 2016, there were 2,400 and last year there were 2,300 cases, according to county health data.
Barberton has been particularly hard hit. According to a Beacon Journal/Ohio.com analysis, Barberton and Norton combined logged the most overdoses of any community in the county in recent years. The two cities share a ZIP code, so it wasn’t possible to separate them in the data.
The goal is to help any drug addicts, though officials know the vast majority of overdoses in the county — and especially in Barberton — are opioid overdoses, said Seth Kujat, vice president of community impact for the United Way.
“We are really treating emergency rooms as the front door for services for treatment,” Kujat said.
The program, which will take the majority of the United Way’s $500,000 funding for its bold goal, will involve about 10 other community partners.
The United Way has made a two-year commitment for the Barberton pilot program and hopes eventually to expand it to other Summa emergency departments, other hospitals and clinics in the area, Kujat said.
Before there was a care coordinator, patients were sometimes given “the options they could follow up with in the community, but nothing right then at the emergency department that would help them stay sober to get to the next level,” said Jaimie McKinnon, Summa vice president for behavioral health.
“That coordinator is setting up that source of referral services to link them directly so they don’t leave the emergency room without that next treatment option,” he said.
The coordinator also will offer resources to patients who are not ready for medication-assisted treatment or other programs to give them options.
Addictions — especially opioid addictions — remain stigmatized, said Dr. Michael Hughes, president of Summa’s Barberton campus.
“This is a disease, not a moral failure. We’ve got to address this,” he said. “This is not always someone’s fault … we have to have a cultural shift and I want to be part of that.”
The program had a soft launch last month and is ready for patients, officials said.
Partners in the project include community groups that will provide some wrap-around services and access to resources that could be barriers to a patient getting care, such as lack of transportation, child care and housing, Kujat said.
The Akron-based Packard Institute received a grant from the United Way to provide the recovery coaches working with patients at the Barberton ER.
It’s important for recovery coaches to be peers who can guide patients in their own recovery starting immediately after they are revived with the opioid antidote naloxone, known by the brand name Narcan, said Raynard Packard, founder and director.
“When you’re coming out of a Narcan haze and your body is revolting because the withdrawal is setting in, you’re going to need someone to get your wing,” Packard said.
Packard’s nephew, Corey Packard, 31, will be one of those recovery coaches.
“When somebody comes into a hospital setting, they’re not going to trust all the professionals,” said Corey Packard, who has been in recovery for six months. “They’re not going to trust the nurses. They’re not going to trust the people in uniform. They’re going to trust somebody who identifies with their problem on a human level at that moment and that’s why it’s going to work.”
He said he battled his addictions for 17 years.
Raynard Packard said the recovery coaches have their own coaches who continue to help them, too.
What coaches will do will vary with each case, from going to appointments to reaching out to family members or other resources, he said.
Though some other hospitals are starting to offer medication-assisted treatment, the collaboration of so many partners in and out of the hospital will make a difference, said Dave Rich, United Way director of community health.
“This is a mix of the hospital, which is the highest level of care, partnering with legacy treatment agencies and grass roots groups like Packard,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve seen that many layers within one cause working together so closely.”