AK Regional Hospital attacks addiction problem with new service
Alaska Regional Hospital hopes a hospital bed and caring staff will help cut down on the state's substance abuse problem, which has been blamed for a spike in crime around Anchorage.
"And this is an extremely non-judgmental environment. You come here for us to take care of you and we don't care about your past. We don't have to. We here to take care of you and love you in the moment," said Alaska Regional Hospital nurse manager Mandy Mitchell.
Mitchell is part of a new medical service called "One-Eighty," signifying a 180-degree turn toward a better life. The service includes admitting people to the hospital who are withdrawing on prescription drugs, heroin, alcohol or other substances.
"And we will tightly monitor and treat the symptoms that you go through when you withdraw from substances," said Mitchell.
Alaska Regional is still working out some details of the service but will have a phone number that people can call. Staff will then decide if that person needs to be admitted to treat their withdrawal symptoms. If they are admitted they will receive round the clock care from doctors and nurses from between three and five days, depending on the substance they are withdrawing from. Alaska Regional Hospital officials say this is the very first elective medical withdrawal service for Alaskans; it's different because it's voluntary.
"We treat withdrawal patients in every hospital across the state all the time. It is much different when someone is coming in voluntarily saying, 'please help me,'" said Alaska Regional Hospital CEO Julie Taylor.
The service doesn't end with a clean and sober person walking out of the hospital.
"Our intake service coordinator will follow the patient for one year via phone. Frequent check-ins to check on how you are and your outpatient treatment; where you are in your outpatient treatment and reassess. Sometimes patients need to come back again and that's okay. We will do that for you, too," said Mitchell.
Kim Whitaker, head of the Anchorage group REAL About Addiction and the parent of a daughter addicted to heroin, weighed in on the program Monday night.
"This is just one of many tactics that need to be available if we're really going to come on to the other side. So my message would be, get help. Ask someone. Get informed and take the first step," said Taylor.
The end of July is the target start time. Staff expects the service to covered by Medicaid, Medicare and most insurance plans. There will be a self-pay option for those without insurance, and financial counselors will work with people on an individual basis. There is no set number of beds at this time.
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