LIMA — St. Rita’s Medical Center will now treat alcohol withdrawal at its inpatient detoxification center, which already serves patients undergoing withdrawal from opioids and benzodiazepines.
“Alcohol withdrawal is a medical condition,” said Dr. Rusheeth Thummalapally, who works in St. Rita’s detoxification center. In severe cases, Thummalapally said alcohol withdrawal may be fatal.
But patients who were experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms were “being sent to detox facilities outside the community,” according to Susan Hawk, behavioral health chief of clinical integration for Mercy Health – St. Rita’s Medical Center.
St. Rita’s will also have a single phone number connecting patients and families to all addiction-related services, including the detox center and the Medication Assisted Treatment outpatient program, founded last August.
MAT relies on a combination of medication, like Naltrexone or Vivitrol, and behavioral therapies to treat addiction.
“We believe this is a chronic disease,” Dr. Robert Wheeler, an internal medical practitioner with the MAT Center, told a crowd who met at St. Rita’s on Friday to learn more about the program. “It’s not a patient choice. We treat these patients as chronic patients. We believe in treatment versus punishment; compassion versus condemnation; empathy versus blame.”
The new services were mentioned during a broader discussion on addiction treatment options at St. Rita’s, Friday, Jan. 11. The hospital has seen a large decrease in the number of opioid overdose visits to the emergency department in the past three years. According to statistics offered by Hawk, the St. Rita’s Emergency Department saw 167 patients on opioid overdose calls in 2018, down from 444 in 2017 and 400 in 2016. She credited increased awareness and access to care in the region as well as greater availability of overdose reversal drug Narcan.
The St. Rita’s addiction services hotline is 833-347-5544.
Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.