New Addiction Medicine Program Brings Treatment, Hope

Organization: Service: Story Topics:
Mental Health
Addiction Medicine

Later this year, Community Hospital Long Beach will launch its Addiction Medicine Program for those willing and ready to seek help for either alcohol or drug addiction.

The program is the latest expansion from the MemorialCare Center for Mental Health & Wellness at Community Hospital Long Beach, which continues to grow its programs to meet the needs of the Long Beach community.

The Addiction Medicine Program will offer treatment – including withdrawal management – therapy and support to help patients who are suffering from an addiction to a substance, such as alcohol, prescription drugs, sedatives or sleep agents. Since the program is part of an acute hospital, mental illnesses or other medical conditions can be addressed while the patient is at the MemorialCare Center for Mental Health & Wellness. 

Addiction and mental illness are often connected and complex. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, studies have suggested that nearly one-third of people with all mental illnesses and approximately one-half of people with severe mental illnesses also experience substance abuse. In addition, more than one-third of all alcohol abusers and more than one-half of all drug abusers are battling mental illness.

“We know that these are two independent diseases that have their own characteristics, but when you combine them it becomes much more complicated to treat one disease by itself,” says Mario San Bartolome, M.D., medical director, Addiction Medicine Program, MemorialCare Center for Mental Health & Wellness, Community Hospital Long Beach. “That’s why they need to be addressed together.”

“Patients who qualify to be treated in our addiction medicine unit are those who face medical risks if they detoxed on their own,” says Dr. San Bartolome. “People who have existing medical problems that would be complicated by a detox need to be monitored closely and in a safe environment.”

Treatment in the new 10-bed addiction medicine unit will be provided by a multi-disciplinary care team that specializes in mental health care and addiction medicine. Therapists and physicians specializing in addiction medicine meet with each patient individually while they’re in the hospital to offer support and begin providing information and resources to help patients realize their potential after recovery. 

“As they start to go through withdrawal, patients often begin facing the situation in their lives without drugs and there is a lot of depression and remorse, especially when it involves a family,” says Hopey Witherby, director, MemorialCare Center for Mental Health & Wellness, Community Hospital Long Beach.

“We’re not the treatment, we’re the first part of the long haul that can be defined as recovery,” says Dr. San Bartolome. “We create a multi-disciplinary plan, looking at all the health variables we can capture while they’re here. Many programs fail in the follow-up care coordination. That’s one of the most important things I’d like this program to be – strong in connecting the dots for the patient. When they walk out, not only do they have educational materials and phone numbers they can call, but they know they can come back to us for support.”

By offering different levels of care, from inpatient to partial hospitalization and outpatient care, the MemorialCare Center for Mental Health & Wellness is a long-term resource for the community, including the families of patients. 

“Addiction affects the whole family,” says Witherby. “If they wanted to do family therapy, or if a child needed extra support, we can offer all of that in our outpatient psychiatric clinic. Our job is not over when they leave here, it’s just begun. We want to be a resource that they can call 24/7 and let them know on a regular basis that we care by checking in. This program isn’t just five days and ‘out-the -door.’ The case management and therapy component is critical.”