HomeMedicine By SpecialtyAddictions and DrugsA continuity of care approach to chemical dependency

A continuity of care approach to chemical dependency

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Tough love is a piece of cake for Ian Gallacher – these days;

But not because of his forte for flambé or his one-of-a-kind crème brûlée.

“I am the luckiest person in the world because of the staff, physicians and volunteers in Humber River Regional Hospital’s (HRRH) Bridgeway Chemical Dependency Assessment and Treatment Program,” says Gallacher, a pastry chef and professor in the Baking and Pastry Arts Management Program at George Brown College.  “After three years, I am sober, I have my family life back and I am celebrating my successes one step at a time.  I couldn’t have accomplished all of this without the ‘tough love’ from a great team.”

Teamwork is the key to the HRRH Bridgeway Program’s approach to patient care.  It was established in 1982 and is part of Humber River’s internationally-recognized Mental Health and Addictions Program.  It brings together HRRH psychiatrists, addiction counsellors, clinicians, social workers, support staff and many dedicated community volunteers – volunteers who have often themselves been patients in Humber River’s Chemical Dependency Program – to provide comprehensive assessment, referral and treatment; medical withdrawal management as needed, family support programs and aftercare.

“With a multidisciplinary and collaborative approach, it’s a model of care delivery that continues to deliver outstanding results to those who matter most: our patients and their families,” says Darlene Ginsberg, Manager of the HRRH Outpatient Mental Health and Addictions Program.  “We are helping chemically dependent individuals to recognize their diseases and then teaching them to manage these diseases safely and effectively,” she adds.

“An important part of our role is providing our patients with a unique continuity of care approach at all stages of the care process,” says Sally Mintz Levy, HRRH Clinician and Aftercare Coordinator in the Bridgeway Program, who’s been helping patients and families at Humber River for over 30 years.

When chemical-dependent patients come to Humber River they enter a 28-day Outpatient Intensive Program focused on education and therapeutic support for recovery from addiction. From there, they are referred to the HRRH Aftercare Support Program – a minimum two-year commitment – where they meet regularly to talk about their experiences, ask questions and receive ongoing education and support from HRRH Program staff and volunteers.

“I owe the Bridgeway Program for my sobriety; it’s a big part of what keeps me sober,” says Bernie Melnyk, a volunteer facilitator who, together with his wife Lynda – a volunteer in the family support program – has been giving his time to the HRRH Aftercare Program for the last 12 years.  “One of the main issues with staying sober is that you feel alone. Coming together in a group and surrounding yourself with people who have been through what you’re going through is extremely helpful,” he adds.  “Attending aftercare every week is a reminder for me of what it was like to begin sobriety; it continues to help me immensely.”

“We help participants to see that recovery is long term, it’s a process.  It isn’t just about coming to a 28-day treatment program,” says Mintz Levy.  “Our job is to help these people succeed and we are doing that by providing ongoing support and education,” she adds.  “We are widening the range of tools they can utilize to stay clean and sober.”

Part of that support and education means making family members a priority throughout the continuity of care process.  The Bridgeway Program offers regular support groups and education sessions for family members of their patients. These are valuable and open forum learning sessions that are also available to the community at large.

“On a cold Wednesday evening, I found myself sitting among a group of strangers, sharing my thoughts and feelings about what it’s like to be a wife and a mother and to have a husband who needed help to stay sober,” says Anna Screnci, Gallacher’s wife for over 11 years.  “But that’s when my eyes opened.  These people aren’t strangers; they are going through the same thing I’m going through.  We are all connected and we are there for each other.  Most importantly, I’m not alone.  In that moment of realization I had an instant connection with these people.  Going to the family sessions helped me to focus on how my husband’s disease affected me and how I could manage my anger and resentment effectively.”

“It’s ‘one-stop shopping,’ ” exclaims a happy Ian Gallacher.  “I still can’t believe how lucky I am, to have all of these care providers and resources at my fingertips.  Sally and her team at Humber River really care about the patients and families in the Bridgeway Program and now life is easier and more enjoyable for me.”



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