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The Addiction Medicine Program at Cooper Hospital: Improving the wellbeing of Camden residents experiencing addiction

June 12, 2018
Emma Gugerty and Lindsay Wilson of Cooper Addiction Medicine Program pose in front of tree

By Amy Yuen

The Addiction Medicine Program at Cooper Hospital is a leader in improving the wellbeing of individuals experiencing addiction in Camden, and a key partner in our collaborative work to improve care for people with complex needs. On May 23, staff from the Addiction Medicine Program presented an overview of their comprehensive addiction services and highlighted their newly expanded work with pregnant and postpartum women experiencing substance use disorder at the monthly Camden Care Management meeting. Over 40 local healthcare and social service providers and residents gathered at Northgate II Community Room to learn more about the program, network, and share ideas and information.

Licensed Practical Nurse Lindsay Wilson and Health Coach Emma Gugerty presented on the program’s comprehensive healthcare services, which focus on improving the emotional, physical, and social wellbeing of people with substance use disorders across South Jersey. The program recently expanded its services to include other innovative pilot programs.

Lindsay and Emma also highlighted the program’s perinatal clinic that provides low- to no-barrier treatment for pregnant and postpartum women struggling with substance use. The clinic provides a wide range of services designed to empower pregnant and parenting women in their journeys in motherhood and recovery — including medication assisted treatment, prenatal care, primary care, obstetrics and pediatrics, peer recovery services, health coaching, advocacy, and more. New state funding has also expanded the clinic’s services to include recovery-focused housing support for the women and their babies. To date, the perinatal clinic has treated over 60 women and over 50 babies since its launch in fall of 2016.

“Our office and clinic is a safe space for these women… Moms who have had kids before and first-time moms— they hold hands through some really difficult times. So it’s more than they just come to doctor’s office and see each other and leave. A lot of our patients ride in together, and they go to support meetings together outside of our clinic times. They really form lifelong bonds,” said Lindsay.

To illustrate their work with patients, Emma shared a story about a 39-year old pregnant patient who has struggled for 18 years with an opioid use disorder, which began when she was taking care of her mom who was dying of cancer. The patient had previously discontinued methadone maintenance therapy because she disliked its side effects. She was incarcerated shortly before coming to the clinic, but after her release, she overdosed and received Narcan. It was then that she decided she was ready to start recovery and came to the walk-in clinic. Staff at the Addiction Medicine Program started her on medication treatment and placed her in emergency housing that day, and soon after, her health started improving.

Her recovery hasn’t been easy. She has been incarcerated again due to a probation violation. The Addiction Medicine Program is working closely with the jail to get her the medicine she needs to stabilize her health, and is trying to place her in a Mommy and Me residential recovery program, where she can receive long-term treatment and keep her baby.

“We really care deeply for our patients,” said Lindsay. “We recognize that we might be the last stop for these patients in a system that traditionally has not been very welcoming to them. So we’re trying to change that by giving them wraparound supportive care.”

To learn more about the perinatal clinic or to request an appointment, call (856) 342-2439. For more information about the Cooper Addiction Medicine program, visit their webpage. Currently, there is a waitlist for patients seeking care who are not part of the pregnant or postpartum population.

Held on the fourth Wednesday of every month, Camden Care Management meetings are open to community members and professionals interested in transforming healthcare and improving the wellbeing of individuals with complex health and social needs. The meetings feature presentations by programs serving Camden residents, and provide opportunities to network, participate in case conferencing, and participate in trainings on topics relevant to serving complex patients. Visit our Camden Care Management Meetings webpage to learn more.

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