Denver Health Opens New Doors To Persons Who Misuse Substances

DENVER, CO (Friday, August 30, 2019) — Denver Health has established a new Center for Addiction Medicine to fight the burden of substance misuse in Denver and fill gaps in treatment for people suffering with opioid use disorder.

As Denver Health marks Overdose Awareness Day (August 31), the new center is bringing together our broad range of addiction programs and medical resources into a single treatment model across Denver Health, mindful to reduce the stigma of substance use.

The center is also bridging the gap between addiction and treatment by providing more options to persons affected by the opioid crisis. A new Denver Health baseline study of 2017 data shows only one third of persons affected by the opioid crisis accessed therapy and medication.

Denver Health CEO Robin Wittenstein said the Center for Addiction Medicine was using the study as a benchmark to break down barriers to accessing methadone and buprenophine, which are used to help people suffering from opioid use disorder move into recovery.

“At Denver Health’s Center for Addiction Medicine every door is an opportunity. Doors lead to new beginnings. Doors open to hope. At the Center for Addiction Medicine, there are no wrong doors,” said Dr. Wittenstein.

“Whether patients present to Denver Health’s emergency department, methadone clinic, or one of our many community-based clinics, they are treated with dignity and respect, and helped through the door to recovery.”

The Denver Health baseline study, “Do You Know If Your Population Is Engaged?” examined data collected before the launch of the Center for Addiction Medicine, finding in 2017, 6,688 people in Denver were affected by opioid use disorder. Of them, 3,238 were diagnosed at Denver Health. Of them, 1,051 received medication for their addiction.

The study says the gap between diagnosis and treatment is an issue across the US. Patients diagnosed with opioid use disorder face barriers including lack of capacity in treatment facilities and because patients don’t “engage” with medical providers.

However, programming developed since the study data was collected is showing promising results. The Center for Addiction Medicine’s signature Treatment on Demand program – part funded by Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, connects emergency patients suffering from opioid user disorder with next day treatment.

In 2018, Denver Health’s hospital and emergency department inducted 307 patients onto medication for opioid use disorder. In the first six months of 2019, with Treatment on Demand in place, 258 patients were inducted, with a projection to induct 516 total patients in 2019.

The Center for Addiction Medicine treatment model connects Denver Health’s robust range of opioid treatment services within a “hub-and-spoke” approach that integrates resources and clinical expertise, providing a seamless, confidential and supportive journey for patients.

Denver Health plans to expand this opioid referral model to provide patients with a broader range of treatment options for other substances such as methamphetamine.

The Center for Addiction Medicine‘s “hub” is located in Denver Health’s Behavioral Health department. The “spokes” include the Emergency Department, Psychiatric Emergency Services, methadone treatment, suboxone treatment, hospital medicine, correctional care, family health centers, Denver CARES, Denver Recovery Group, Behavioral Health Group, and other community partners.

To mark Overdose Awareness Day, Denver Health will today host a large group that will march from the offices of the Harm Reduction Action Center on East Colfax to the Rita Bass EMS Education Center on 6th Avenue. The group will include families and friends of people who have died from drug overdoses.

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