Providing Support to a Community in Need Substance Use Treatment and Counseling with Adventist Health

June 22, 2022

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The beautiful landscapes of Mendocino County range from vineyards to mountains to redwoods to the gorgeous coastline, but there also lies another landscape that isn’t quite as visual for most visitors to our beautiful oasis—one of prevalent substance use in the county.

According to county statistics from health assessments by Healthy Mendocino, Mendocino County ranks higher in 18 of the state’s 24 measures of community health. These measures include data such as death rate due to opioid overdose, death rate due to drug use, emergency department (ED) visits due to drug overdose, hospitalization rate due to all drug overdoses, among others. Clearly, we have a problem.

Understanding the effects and impact on our communities, The CA Bridge program was implemented at Adventist Health Howard Memorial in March of 2019 with subsequent programs established in Ukiah and the Mendocino Coast. “The CA Bridge program offers brief screening and intervention to people with substance use who come into the emergency department meeting them where they are and supporting them along their journey” says Mary Anne Gould, Supervisor of the Substance Use Navigation team. “Our Substance Use Navigator [SUN] helps the patient navigate barriers to treatment and connect to services such as rehab or outpatient programs.”

This program is an ED-focused program in which a Substance Use Navigator meets patients who come to the ED with a substance use disorder and provides a non-judgmental, compassionate approach to someone who might anticipate barriers and access to health care due to stigma.

Once a patient is seen by the provider, the SUN builds report, fostering a relationship of trust with the patient and continues to work with them after they have discharged. Many times, this can be right at or near our hospital by providing someone with addiction counseling or medical assisted treatment (MAT). “I will get a referral—sometimes it’s from a provider at our hospital, clinics or Mary Anne,” says Hailey Blair, Substance Use Counselor at Redwood Medical Clinic. “The stipulation is you have to have a primary care provider with the Redwood Medical Clinic, but the services I provide are completely free.”

If patients have an opiate use disorder or a stimulant use disorder and want to participate in the grant assisted program, Adventist Health can cover all the cost of treatment, medication and counseling. The patient will be seen by a counselor on a weekly basis as they work through counseling. “Most people I see engage in services because they have intrinsic motivation, which is gratifying because they're ready to work on their recovery, says Hailey. “I get to watch them transform into the highest versions of themselves.”

Not only is counseling available for patients, it’s also available to their families who may need help working through their family member’s substance use disorder. “I will also accept a family member to help support and counsel; it’s a family illness,” says Hailey. “Everyone has shifted and learned to adapt with living with the person with addiction and their needs. This mobile system—in which one person wants to get sober—the whole system of living has to change in order to maintain the balance. It will rock and cause tension, so if everyone isn’t working together to find their own recovery things can break.”

These services are essential to this community, a rural space where access to health care locally makes a huge difference. “Sometimes people are so desperate to get that kind of guidance. They are so relieved that we help people to get into the clinic program, or into a rehab program and are thankful to have someone help them navigate this. It’s such an essential service to those that need this support.” says Hailey.

In a recent month, 148 people contacted our substance use navigators across the county just to have a supportive conversation. “Having access to that kind of support is powerful to the wellness of our whole community,” Mary Anne says of this tremendous achievement.

The trust and ability to provide these services in Mendocino County is paramount to the health of the community. Hailey knows through her experiences that making a difference starts as soon as contact is made with a patient. “It’s hard to gain that trust in this type of population, so for us to be able to help as soon as you call or say you need help in our ED is so important. That one connection we make and being ready to help right away is everything to us.”

Since the inception of the CA Bridge Program in 2019 at Howard Memorial, Adventist Health has implemented the program at Ukiah Valley hospital and the Mendocino Coast hospital in Fort Bragg. “With our programs expansion across Mendocino County we are able to provide more access to services for people who suffer from the disease of addiction at any stage.” Mary Anne echoes of Hailey’s comments on being quick, effective and helpful to the population who needs them most.

Thank you, Mary Anne, Hailey and the amazing substance use navigator team and counselors in our clinics for your hard work, dedication and perseverance. We’re lucky to have these incredible programs in our community.

Do you or someone you know need help with substance use? 

Walk into any emergency department in Mendocino County or call us today at 707-459-6115 (Howard), 707-467-3177 (Ukiah) and 707-515-5193 (Mendocino Coast) and our sister clinics in Lucerne at (707) 274-9299 and Clearlake at 707-349-4340 for compassionate help from skilled providers to assist on the road to recovery.