Enough Talk Already. It’s Time for Action!
As a practicing internal medicine physician in Marshall County for the past 14 years, I have witnessed nearly every malady that threatens the human condition. Unquestionably, the current scourge of substance abuse that has so pervasively permeated our region/state/country, represents, in my estimation, the single greatest threat to humanity and our civilized society.
Indeed, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced that in 2013 (most current data available) 46,471 Americans died of drug overdose, more than automobile accidents (35,369) and firearm deaths (33,636). As an active member of the provider community and a hospital CEO, these senseless fatalities have created in me an indescribable level of frustration and incapacity.
What is BreakThru?
As it turns out, these sentiments were also universally manifested among our 25 member Board of Trustees, as well as vividly reflected in our recently completed Community Needs Assessment, wherein substance abuse was identified as the number one social problem facing our community, and the number two health concern (exceeded only by obesity). In short, we enjoyed unanimity in acknowledging our profound challenge, yet possessed few, if any weapons in our arsenal to combat the problem.
In March 2014, the management team at Reynolds Memorial Hospital (RMH) was challenged by our Board of Trustees to prioritize the development of a strategy that would allow us to leverage our resources and begin to offer assistance to those mired in the morass of substance abuse. Shortly thereafter, we introduced BreakThru, a medically supervised withdrawal management program.
The BreakThru model is the first of its kind to serve the tri-state region of West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania with the program addressing the distinct needs of patients who have voluntarily decided to take the first step toward breaking the addictive cycles of alcohol and drug abuse.
How Does BreakThru Work?
Our focus is directed at individuals that are imminent or an active early-stage withdrawal from alcohol, opioids, benzodiazepines or heroin. These patients are served on a medical/surgical floor where the physical symptoms of the withdrawal process are medically supervised to ensure safety, comfort and confidentiality. Medical literature
Medical literature tells us the initial stages of withdrawal are the most difficult as symptoms can cause severe anxiety, nausea, pain, distress and other potentially life-threatening health concerns. Doctors and nurses monitor the patient’s status, administer medications to ease symptoms to ensure a safe and comfortable environment. The service is covered by most health insurance providers and by Medicare and Medicaid. The average length of stay is three days, and the service aggressively assists patients entering into the next phase of their recovery, typically an intensive outpatient program (IOP).
BreakThru is now entering its fourth month of operation. Initially, we projected five to eight admissions during our first month. In actuality, we had 24. The response had been simply overwhelming. While we realize this effort represents only a small portion of the fight that must be waged, RMH is gratified to be making a contribution to the struggle. Interestingly, our care team has derived enormous satisfaction from the effusive gratitude our BreakThru patients have expressed for the opportunity RMH has provided them in taking the first step in achieving sobriety. It is clear to all of us that BreakThru is making a real difference.
Access to BreakThru services can be facilitated by contacting the office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
If anyone reading this article has questions, needs assistance or has a referral, please contact the BreakThru office at Reynolds Memorial Hospital by calling 304-221-4528 or 855-341-9999.
**previously published in the WV State Journal.