Treating Substance Use Disorder During a Pandemic: Lots of Challenges, a Few Silver Linings
Samantha Ciarocco, LICSW/Joseph Wright, MD
Thursday, August 6, @ 11 am
Opioid overdose is the number one cause of death for our patients. For many of our patients, severe substance use disorders come in the context of lives fraught with unspeakable trauma, poverty and mental illness. And with our main building located in the epicenter of Boston’s overdose crisis, we witness and respond to this sadness and devastation every day. BHCHP’s substance use disorder (SUD) treatment program seeks to ‘meet people where they’re at’.
We offer office-based treatment with medications, treat opioid and alcohol use disorders, one-on-one and group therapy, recovery coaching and case management. BHCHP’s SUD staff serves some of the highest-risk patients via an outreach van and in our nationally-renowned SPOT program— a walk-in medical monitoring space for overly sedated patients in immediate danger of overdose and death. We also work closely with incarcerated individuals with SUD who are close to their release dates to help prepare them for their next steps. The COVID-19 epidemic has required us to switch much of our SUD treatment to telehealth, which has been very challenging. We’ve also had to pause on some of our regular SUD services during this crisis. Joe and Sam will talk about:
- How substance use treatment has changed during COVID-19 and what changes have had unexpected upsides
- The impact of the pandemic on our patients with SUD
- The philosophy of harm reduction and how it fits into BHCHP’s approach
- The role trauma — past and present — plays in addiction and how it influences treatment
Samantha Ciarocco joined BHCHP in 2019 as the Clinical Operations Manager for the Office Based Addiction Treatment (OBAT) program where she supports our Suboxone treatment program and telehealth behavioral health services. Sam developed the mental health and substance use disorder treatment protocol for Boston Hope, the city’s medical field hospital, during our COVID-19 response efforts. She has taught at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Substance Use Disorder Initiative “Get Waivered” program, facilitated education events at MGH, Harvard Medical School and Boston Medical Center, and has sat on education panels offered by the MGH Institute of Health Professionals. She previously worked at MGH in the Emergency Department and on the Addiction Consult Team as a clinical social worker. Sam is a Graduate of Simmons College of Social Work where her clinical focus was Trauma and Substance Use Disorders. In her spare time, she is a member of the Board of Directors for Dorchester Baseball, a t-ball coach, and constantly chases her family around with sunblock and reminders to wear their masks.
Joseph Wright, MD, Director of Addiction Treatment
Joe Wright started working in public health as a community educator in San Francisco in the 1990s, responding to the AIDS epidemic. This eventually led to going back to school to study science, and going to Harvard Medical School, where he wrote an honors thesis about the origins of AIDS activism; and was a frequent contributor to National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. His residency in internal medicine at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center was followed by training in HIV medicine, and then by working in the faculty practice as an attending physician and a core member of the ambulatory teaching faculty. Wanting to respond with greater vigor to the emerging opioid overdose crisis, he came to BHCHP in early 2015, where he became board-certified in addiction medicine, and eventually came to focus his clinical practice almost entirely on addiction treatment. He is a clinician on the CareZone van, directs our South Bay House of Correction project, and is the director of a multidisciplinary team focused primarily on supporting people on buprenorphine.