Baystate Franklin lands team of experts in addiction treatment

By MARY BYRNE

Staff Writer

Published: 06-25-2023 3:48 PM

GREENFIELD — Through a new service at Baystate Franklin Medical Center, a team of experts will be available 24/7 to assist medical providers who are caring for hospitalized patients with substance use disorders.

Addiction Consult Service will provide medical consultation services and support transitions to appropriate outpatient settings, including the continuation of medication and case management services.

“For someone whose been in my role over six years, the vision to have Addiction Consult Service as well as recovery coaching … is part of a larger vision for how to provide addiction services at Baystate Franklin,” said Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and the North Quabbin Region Coordinator Debra McLaughlin. “This has been part of a long-held vision for our community to deepen the knowledge base and work of our medical providers as they’re responding to this public health emergency.”

Data released from the state Department of Public Health last week shows there were 2,357 confirmed and estimated opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts in 2022, surpassing the previous peak in 2021 by an estimated 57 deaths. Preliminary data also shows there were 522 confirmed and estimated opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts in the first three months of 2023, a 7.7% decrease from the same period in 2022.

McLaughlin noted that, while overdose fatalities appear to be on the decline since peaks in 2021 and 2022 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, local communities are also seeing more complex cases.

“We’re seeing, like we’ve never seen before, contaminants … that are showing up in counterfeit pills to a very alarming degree,” she said. “We’re also still dealing with the negative impact of xylazine showing up in the illicit drug supply.”

The Addiction Consult Service, which launched this spring at three of Baystate Health’s hospitals, including Baystate Franklin, came to fruition as part of the region’s participation in the HEALing Communities Study in 2019, a national research effort aiming for a 40% reduction in opioid-related overdose fatalities in three years in Massachusetts. The effort was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Athol, Greenfield, Montague and Orange were identified as four of the 16 “most heavily impacted” sites.

According to Boston Medical Center Community Engagement Facilitator Nadia Schuessler, Addiction Consult Service is one of several implementation strategies that were identified as part of the study.

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“You can look at them as specialists who are trying to train and mentor the existing hospital staff,” Schuessler said. “This is a huge undertaking that’s kind of part of a three-pronged approach to addressing addiction services at Baystate. We have Addiction Consult Service; we have recovery coaching in the Emergency Department, which will be coming in the next few months; and we’ll be developing some anti-stigma training. This is the first phase of that.”

The on-call service is supported by funding provided by the HEALing Communities Study, which is managed by the Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and the North Quabbin Region, whose administrative entity is the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office.

Since the service launched in April, consultants have taken eight calls in total, with four of them in the last month, according to HEALing Communities Study Community Coordinator Tiarra Fisher.

“They have been quite complex cases,” said Fisher. “I know a few of our providers had just mentioned being surprised that these were quite complex. I think the message there is the service is working and there is a need for it.”

Providers in this effort, who also prescribe medication for opioid use disorder as part of their practice, include Dr. Adam Chamberlain of Valley Medical Group; Family Nurse Practitioner Rachel Katz; Dr. Ruth Potee, medical director for addiction services at Behavioral Health Network; Dr. Talia Singer-Clark, hospitalist and addiction medicine specialist at Behavioral Health Network and Boston Medical Center; and Dr. Dean Singer, a family/addiction physician of Bridge Primary.

“Addiction is a really complicated medical problem and it requires a certain amount of expertise that a lot of medical providers either don’t have comfort in or don’t have the expertise in the nuances of treatment,” said Singer. “Having a seven-day-a-week, 24-hour specialized service gives a lot of people in the hospital support when dealing with a very difficult medical problem to treat.”

Singer added that a big part of their work involves helping to reduce the stigma for people who use drugs and are seeking medical treatment.

“A big problem in the community of the people who use drugs … is [they] go into hospitals and — Baystate Franklin is not immune from that — they get treated poorly,” Singer said. “We’re offering specialized medical advice but we’re also trying to promote education regarding trauma-informed care.”

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.

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