February 15, 2013

Detox services diminishing as hospital centers close

The short supply of hospital beds dedicated to drug and alcohol detoxification is about to get even smaller unless a public hearing can change the fate of Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital, which is scheduled to shut its doors in April.

A number of former patients who took their first steps toward recovery at the facility were scheduled to testify at the public hearing Feb. 15. Among them was Betsy Barry, 48, who was treated at Faulkner Hospital in 2006 for addiction to painkillers.

“I was there for four days and I had intense treatment, and I learned the tools I was going to need to stay sober,” Barry told 90.9 wbur, Boston's NPR station. “I met a lot of people that were in the same situation as me. That was a huge component for me to stay sober — the fact that I had people there that were in the exact same situation as me and they had actually recovered.”

Barry told wbur that she doesn’t think she would have had the same success in any outpatient program or in a unit that wasn’t dedicated to detox and addiction treatment.

Hospital Vice President Ed Liston-Kraft said the hospital intends to treat detox patients in a modern medical unit and have them managed by an addiction medical team. There will be six detox beds mixed in with other general patient rooms. He said the detox process will remain the same. He said that the existing detox unit is for patients with complex medical or psychological problems beyond their addiction.

“These folks are very sick medically, and often times they can’t make use of the group programs that we have on the unit,” Liston-Kraft said in the wbur report. “So what we’re trying to do is to treat the medical condition as well as the addiction, and the role of that addiction counselor is to launch some treatment and then to make sure they make a connection to our ambulatory programs.”

Clinicians at this hospital and elsewhere are seeing more people with complex addictions, including those addicted to multiple kinds of drugs. Meanwhile, a trend of diminishing dedicated services and closures like this one in Boston continues in hospitals around the country.

“I hear from some patients, ‘It’s so hard to get in. I keep calling and calling. It’s so hard to find beds in this area,’ ” said Virginia MacDonald, who has worked at the center since 1985 when it opened.


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