Christiana Care’s reputation as a trailblazer in advancing innovative approaches to care was highlighted Monday by state and national leaders, who selected Christiana Hospital in Newark as the setting to announce a wide-ranging initiative designed to save the lives of people struggling with heroin and opioid addiction.
Joined by federal and state officials at the John H. Ammon Medical Education Center main auditorium, White House Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy Michael Botticelli unveiled the creation of the Heroin Response Strategy, a collaborative 15-state network of public health and public safety partnerships aimed at empowering communities to solve the addiction epidemic.
“Every day we see the ravages of substance abuse in our Emergency Department, our inpatient units and our outpatient practices,” said Janice Nevin, M.D., MPH, president and CEO of Christiana Care. “Like all of you, we are committed to making a difference — to work as partners with our community to help people achieve optimal health in body and mind. We have many innovative programs that treat the whole person and point the way toward freedom from substance abuse and addiction.”
Through the White House’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, $2.5 million will fund the Heroin Response Strategy at five regional programs: Appalachia, New England, New York/New Jersey, Washington/Baltimore and Philadelphia/Camden, of which New Castle County is a member. The funding is part of a total of $13.4 million in federal dollars provided to High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area programs across the nation.
More than 300 news outlets across the globe covered the announcement, and numerous media outlets, including NBC National News and National Public Radio, reported the event from Christiana Hospital. About 50 dignitaries from executive, legislative and judicial branches also attended the news conference.
Government leaders and advocates lauded Christiana Care’s innovative, patient- and-family-centered programs that have earned the national spotlight for their success in addressing the complex problem of drug addiction.
Most visible is Project Engage, the brainchild of Terry L. Horton, M.D., FACP, chief of the Division of Addiction Medicine, which has demonstrated unparalleled success in reaching patients who are in the hospital and guiding them on the path to recovery and wellness. The program, which this year won a national award from the American Society of Addiction Medicine, uses health care professionals known as engagement specialists to reach patients with substance-abuse problems at the hospital bedside and link them to resources in the community that can put them on the path to wellness. For patients who are in the hospital because of an illness that may be completely unrelated to alcohol or drug use, the program creates a unique opportunity for intervention and bolsters Christiana Care’s efforts to achieve medicine’s Triple Aim of improving the experience and quality of care while reducing health care costs.
More than 3,000 patients have been helped through Project Engage, and new research shows that patients reached through this program are significantly less likely to require readmission to the hospital, resulting in an average annual savings of $6,000 per patient when engagement specialists have intervened.
Christiana Care also was chosen as the site for the White House announcement because of the innovative work within its Level III neonatal intensive care unit at Christiana Hospital, the only delivering hospital in Delaware that offers this highest level of care to the most critically ill newborns. The new Continuing Care Nursery at Christiana Hospital provides care for babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome, which occurs when babies are exposed to narcotics during pregnancy. After birth, these babies can show withdrawal symptoms, including irritability, disturbed sleep patterns, difficulty feeding, gastrointestinal upsets, tremors, seizures and poor weight gain. They are often hard to calm and need special care, including gentle rocking and swaddling, and reduced noise and light.
In 2014, Christiana Care cared for more than 150 babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome.
“We provide the support mothers and families need to remain healthy,” Dr. Nevin said,. “Our Center for Women’s Emotional Wellness supports women throughout pregnancy and the first year after birth with outpatient treatment so that they can remain active with their families and in their lives.”
Monday’s news conference featured a who’s who of leaders throughout the state of Delaware.
In addition to Dr. Nevin and Botticelli, speakers included Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn, Delaware Department of Health & Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf and Camden, N.J., Police Chief J. Scott Thomson.
Several members of the advocacy group Attack Addiction were present, including speaker Dawn Hess-Fischer.
State lawmakers in attendance included State Sen. Bethany Hall-Long, State Sen. Bryan Townsend, State Rep. Ruth Briggs King, State Rep. Joseph Miro, State Rep. Bryon Short, State Rep. David Wilson, State Rep. Steve Smyk, State Rep. Michael Mulrooney, State Rep. Ed Osienski, State Rep. Harvey Kenton and State Rep. Deborah Hudson.
The event also featured law enforcement representatives from the Delaware State Police, New Castle County Police and Middletown Police; representatives from U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, U.S. Sen. Chris Coons and Congressman John Carney. Superior Court President Judge Jan Jurden, whose court oversees the Mental Health Court, also attended. Numerous officials from state agencies including Delaware’s Division of Public Health and the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health were on hand.
Throughout the event, the state and national leaders praised Christiana Care for creating care programs for people struggling with substance abuse that should be upheld as paragons throughout the nation.
“Thank you Christiana Care for your work in this field,” Botticelli said.