HSHS St. John’s Hospital has launched a substance abuse, treatment and recovery program, provided in conjunction with Gateway Foundation, available to patients in the emergency department as well as throughout the hospital. Gateway Foundation is the largest nonprofit provider of substance use disorder treatment in the U.S. with its largest footprint in Illinois and has been providing life-saving treatment for over 50 years. In addition, Gateway has been engaged in a statewide program with hospitals and health systems over the last few years.
The program focuses on warm handoff services for the treatment and recovery of patients who present with substance use disorder. A team of experienced individuals work to identify, screen and transition patients from the emergency department or inpatient unit directly to a treatment bed upon discharge as needed. The program’s focus is to intercept those in crisis and shepherd them to care.
The team consists of a certified addictions counselor to perform intake screenings and assessments to determine appropriate level of need and program placement. The counselor is in regular contact with referral sources to help resolve potential barriers to effective treatment. Additionally, a staff person with lived experience is on the team to provide support and outreach, help with appropriate coping skills, and serve as a role model and partner for long-term stable personal recovery.
Sarah Glessner, engagement specialist with Gateway Foundation and located at St. John’s Hospital provides the warm handoff for those who present to the emergency department or are on an inpatient unit with substance abuse issues. Glessner explained, “My role is to see the patient, assess them and screen them for substance abuse and make a recommendation. In some cases, I can provide brief education on how their substance use is affecting their medical condition. For more severe issues, I refer patients to treatment facilities or residential programs and help get that referral before they leave the hospital. If needed, I can provide transportation directly to the facility.”
Kimberly Luz, division director of community outreach for HSHS Illinois hospitals, shared, “We have seen a tremendous increase in substance use across our Illinois ministries. This partnership allows us to engage with our patients presenting with substance use disorder and connect them with critical care in a timely manner. The warm handoff services are truly an extension of our Mission in action as we address and overcome barriers to ongoing treatment and recovery.”
Dr. Teresa Garate, senior vice president at Gateway Foundation, has led the expansion of this program statewide. She shared, “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported over 105,000 overdose deaths in the U.S. last year – this is the highest number ever at a time when the global pandemic has taken over everyone’s attention. We must not forget that this companion crisis continued to be the leading cause of accidental death for people under the age of 50. The only way to address the growing problem of addiction and overdose is to join forces with partners across the state, including our hospital and health system colleagues,” said Dr. Garate. “We are grateful to be able to do this work in collaboration with HSHS leadership and will continue to look for opportunities to grow so that we can identify people in need and get them into treatment.”