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Upstate, St. Camillus partner on addiction treatment program

Upstate, St. Camillus partner on addiction treatment program

Through a $2.1 million grant, Upstate University Hospital has partnered with The Centers at St. Camillus and others to create a new treatment program for those suffering from illness and addiction that is helping people recover and freeing up hundreds of bed days per year.

The Collaborations for Health Program involves Upstate and St. Camillus with support from CNY Services and ACR Health and has been operating successfully since April. The program was created to help an increasing number of IV drug users who are admitted to Upstate suffering from life-threatening infections. They require IV antibiotics for sometimes six weeks at a time, said Kelly Mussi, MS, RN, assistant director of transitional care at Upstate.

“After about three weeks they aren’t critically ill and they are pretty bored,” Mussi said. “They are sitting in our hospital with nothing to do.” Mussi and others at Upstate identified that time as an opportunity to help the patient address their addiction and begin treatments to aid recovery. Mussi approached leadership at St. Camillus about teaming up to split those six weeks between the two facilities and offer additional services to help the patient enter into long-term recovery.

Upstate worked with St. Camillus to obtain a grant through the CNY Care Collaborative, which distributes Medicaid funds through the New York State Delivery System Reform Incentive Plan (DSRIP). In early 2018 the program received a 30-month grant for $2.1 million to launch the collaboration in Onondaga County and spur similar programs in the surrounding counties.

Here’s how it works: Eligible patients are identified as having opioid use disorder, are on medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and require long-term antibiotics to treat the infection. Suzanne Wheeler, RN case manager for the Department of Transitional Care, personally approaches the patient to tell him or her more about the Collaborations for Health program, which is optional but patients commit to participate.

“It’s their choice, which does make a difference,” Mussi said, noting that many of the patients who are approached are eager to address their addiction.

Once the patient is stable on antibiotics, which usually takes a few weeks at Upstate, he or she is transferred to St. Camillus where there are five beds dedicated to the program. St. Camillus now employs full-time addiction treatment staff from CNY Services as well as social workers from ACR Health who will help the patient secure things like safe housing, clothing and help maintain the patient’s treatment plan after discharge.

The patient will spend several more weeks receiving IV antibiotics at St. Camillus, which specializes in long-term, skilled nursing and has units dedicated to short-term and brain injury rehabilitation, among others. Patients in this program receive daily counseling sessions with substance abuse and addiction counselors. Participants agree to stay at St. Camillus for the duration and follow program and facility guidelines while there.

Enrollment began in April and as of late September, 16 patients have been through or are currently enrolled. Of the 14 that have been discharged, 11 remain engaged with addiction treatment. To date, Upstate has saved 411 bed days thanks to the program, Mussi said.

Patients may work with ACR staff for an additional six months for help attending support group meetings, counseling sessions, doctor’s appointments and securing work and housing.

“When it’s all said and done they do six weeks with us and six months with ACR Health so it’s almost eight months they’ve been in recovery,” Mussi said. “That’s a good jump-start to remaining drug-free when you have somebody with you that long.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, drug overdoses killed 72,000 people in 2017. Despite the numbers, patients suffering from addiction don’t always receive the care they need, said Theresa Baxter, NP, who works with the Collaborations for Health Program at Upstate. There are usually three to five patients per week at Upstate who meet all of the criteria for the program, Mussi said.

“Opioid addiction doesn’t discriminate and affects a variety of people,” Baxter said. “I can’t think of someone who doesn’t know someone who’s been affected by this.

“It’s a vulnerable population and we’re working hard to provide excellent care to them.”

There is tremendous stigma tied to opioid use disorder, Baxter said. The shame some feel because of their addiction can prevent people from seeking treatment, she said.

CNY CC awarded the grant with the stipulation that Upstate and St. Camillus share what they’ve learned with other area hospitals. Mussi said the first stops will likely be Rome Memorial Hospital and Oswego Health.  

“It’s one of a kind. We don’t know of anyone else who has a program like this,” she said. “We’ve had some really great successes.”

The program, with addiction and support staff now based at St. Camillus, has also spurred new arms to the facility’s treatment options, Mussi said.

“The grant has expanded to people who end up at St. Camillus for rehab but also might need addiction treatment,” she said. “For instance, you’re in a bad car wreck but you also don’t want to be an alcoholic anymore.”

That combination of services is new and critical considering the ongoing opioid crisis, she said.

“Because St. Camillus is a skilled nursing facility we can open it up to other populations,” said Mussi, noting that the St. Camillus staff had extensive training to work with addiction sufferers. “It was a big leap of faith for St. Camillus to take this population.”

Mussi and Baxter said the collaborative aspect of the program is what has made it work. Upstate staff meet with representatives from St. Camillus, CNY Services and ACR Health regularly to make program updates and track patient outcomes.

“This collaboration allows continuity of care that will save lives as well as be cost efficient,” Baxter said.

Caption: Kelly Mussi, MS, RN, (left) is the assistant director of transitional care at Upstate University Hospital. She and Upstate Transitional Case Manager Suzanne Wheeler (right) work with community partners and patients in the new Collaborations for Health Program working to help people suffering from addiction maintain long-term recovery.