Someone needs help. Maybe they reach out on their own. Maybe it’s a worried parent — a concerned loved one.
“A patient calls in and says they would like to detox,” said Monica Borle, manager of medical services at Access Carroll Integrated Health Care. “Whether that’s alcohol or opioids, we do either here.”
Access Carroll is one of five beneficiaries of Holiday Hope, the Carroll County Times’ annual campaign aimed at driving donations to organizations that help those in need in the Carroll County community. In addition to Access Carroll, the Times also partners with Carroll Food Sunday, Carroll Hospice, Neighbors in Need Year Round and The Shepherd’s Staff. This year, the Holiday Hope campaign goal is to raise $120,000 for the five organizations. To participate in Holiday Hope, readers need only clip the advertisement that appears in the paper every day between now and Christmas, or go to www.carrollcountytimes.com/holidayhope and print out the form.
Borle and her colleagues would then try to persuade that person who’s struggling with addiction to come to their downtown Westminster medical facility for a substance use evaluation with a counselor.
If that patient needs a residential in-patient treatment program, Access Carroll makes the connection for them.
“It’s much better for them to have the substance use evaluation already done,” Borle told the Times. “And for our staff to be able to make that phone call [to the in-patient program] and do a warm hand-off.”
If that patient is eligible for outpatient treatment, they’re shuffled into the program ASAP, prompting the medical staff to get to know them immediately. Access Carroll is open for these evaluations seven days a week — the only facility in the county with such availability — so a patient can start on the weekend.
“With addiction, it’s a very complicated disease and if you don’t have access to that care right away the body undergoes tremendous suffering,” said Tammy Black, the organization’s executive director. “It’s both a physical presentation and an emotional one. If the service is not available seven days a week, then a person will be, I’ll say, forced to go out and to find that drug or to meet that need in their body.”
Substance use evaluations, which Carroll Access sometimes performs after overdose patients are referred from the hospital, are followed by urinalyses and then forensic testing to identify every substance present — those common lab tests can’t discern.
“Things like fentanyl, which is killing people every day,” Borle said, “we cannot test for that.”
Medical staff often have to put on their detective hats to check for unscrupulous prescription solicitation — sometimes referred to as doctor shopping. Staff have access to a database where they can check whether a patient has filled a prescription in a neighboring state.
What starts with an evaluation and a frank conversation about random drug tests and expectations begins a relationship geared toward recovery.
“Really it is not just about the nursing staff getting to know ‘John’ and that he runs a little bit high on his blood pressure and he’s got a substance use problem,” Borle explained. “It is ‘John’ who is a person who has a family of four who’s getting ready to lose his house, or lost his job, or who is trying to get to see his kids again. It’s so much more than just a substance use problem.
And while substance use treatment accounts for a significant chunk of Access Carroll’s work and resources — Black estimates addiction services account for roughly 40 percent of resources — it’s other medical care that constitutes the bulk of their time.
It’s common for substance use treatment to open a patient’s eyes to the myriad other medical and social services that Access Carroll provides, Borle said.
The organization prides itself on providing teeth-to-toes and head-to-heart health care to Carroll County residents from all walks, Black said.
Access Carroll employs full-time medical professionals, like a dentist and multiple nurse practitioners. But the organization is built upon a foundation of altruistic doctors and physicians.
Multiple doctors and nurse practitioners specializing in various medical fields volunteer time to treat disenfranchised patients at Access Carroll. The organization provides services on a sliding fee scale, which is based on a patient’s income.
“We offer everything,” Borle said. “We don’t give you a slip and say, ‘Here you need to go somewhere else to do this,’ we say, ‘Here, let me walk you across the hall and let’s get this done right now, today.’”
Substance use issues are usually accompanied by problems — housing, financial, legal and more. Access Carroll’s medical staff connects those patients with in-house social workers [paid for by the Carroll Health Department] and care coordinators to iron out personal problems congruent with addiction.
“[The patients] are a person,” Borle said. “They are not a disease.”
That rings true across the board, whether it’s a person struggling with addiction and receiving medically assisted treatment, or a patient who doesn’t speak English, Access Carroll treats them as people and rarely turns people away.
“I can honestly tell you we’ve never turned anyone away because they still owed us money,” Borle said. “I’ve never heard of such a thing.”
Access Carroll’s ability to welcome patients regardless of their financial situations, whether they come with health insurance or not, depends largely on money they garner via grants and donations.
“Really and truly we offer hope here at Access Carroll every day of the week, every day of the year,” Black said. “And it’s because we’re able to say ‘Listen, we’re going to partner with you, partnering in your health care, joining arms with you to get you to the place of healthiness of wellness in your mind and in your body.