BATESVILLE Typically, when a person has been abusing substances, he or she becomes dependent on that source not only for the physical reaction, but also the mental and emotional feelings the substance provides, said Lindsey Bowers, community education coordinator for White River Medical Center in Batesville.
“When a person becomes dependent on that source, it takes on a life force of itself, both professionally and personally,” Bowers said. “With our detox process, we want to physically rid the body of those substances.”
The White River Health System opened its new WRMC Medical Detoxification Unit on Jan. 11 at White River Medical Center. Bowers said it is a four-bed unit for medical detox from substances. She said the patients are monitored by Dr. Jerrod Anderson and Dr. Amanda Johnson, as well as by certified registered nurses and staff.
“Patients are going to receive medications [for management of withdrawal symptoms] to make the stay as comfortable as possible,” she said. “The goal of the detox and the unit is to safely detox patients and make sure they are in a comfortable environment and are monitored medically.”
She said the WRMC Medical Detoxification Unit can also accept pregnant mothers and breastfeeding mothers, but those patients aren’t allowed to deliver their babies in the unit.
“If the patient is seeing a pain specialist and needs to take medicine for it, our doctors are going to allow for that,” Bowers said.
Most patients experience withdrawal as a result of prolonged use and abuse of substances such as alcohol, opioids and benzodiazepines such as Valium and Xanax.
“A lot of times when patients stop using certain substances — it differs from person to person — they can experience withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, vomiting, nausea or, in extreme cases, tremors or seizures,” Bowers said.
According to a press release from White River Health System, the detox unit accepts patients with prolonged-substance-misuse disorders who are at least 18 years old. Bowers said that as a voluntary program, the patients must be able and willing to consent to treatment. She said typical treatment lasts three to five days.
“It is going to vary from person to person and is going to be dependent on a lot of factors,” she said. “It is really going to depend on how much they have been using, what they have been using and for how long.
“We are going to make sure they are going to be safe and finish their detox process before they are discharged from the unit.”
Lisa Handcock, the intake coordinator for White River Medical Center Behavioral Health Services, said she has been reviewing referrals to the Behavioral Health Unit for more than five years.
“During that time, I have seen the overwhelming need for a [detox] program like this in our community,” she said. “We receive calls and referrals for substance-abuse treatment from all over Arkansas.
“Both our experience and government data anticipate an increased need for substance-abuse treatment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Handcock said medical detoxification is the first step to recovery, and the goal is to help people in the community make that first step and “support them to the next stage in their recovery journey.”
Bowers said WRHS has been working tirelessly on the project for about a year, including four to six months for the rooms to be constructed.
“One of the things that is special about this unit is that a room looks very much like a private hospital room, including a television,” Bowers said. “This way, our patients can detox by themselves with some dignity.
“They aren’t going to have a roommate, where it might be embarrassing for some people. It is a good way to respect their privacy.”
Bowers said the inspiration for the need of a detox unit is prevalent because of those in the area who struggle with addiction.
“Independence County is a very rural community,” she said. “I’m out in the communities pretty frequently, and also when we looked at the data from the state, we saw there was a need.
“We wanted to make sure our community members and other people from the state could access that treatment.”
She said there are a lot of people in the state, country and world who struggle with addiction.
“We wanted to make sure we had something available for them, and they wouldn’t have to travel to Little Rock or farther,” she said. “We wanted them to have access to that care here, locally.”
She said there are detox units at The BridgeWay in North Little Rock and at Bradford Health Services in Little Rock, but besides those, there aren’t a lot of options for those struggling with substance abuse.
Unity Health White County Medical Center in Searcy and Unity Health Harris Medical Center in Newport have had partnerships with New Vision since 2014 and 2018, respectively, according to Erica Duncan, the marketing coordinator for Unity Health. New Vision provides withdrawal-management and medical-detoxification services.
New Vision is a voluntary service, and patients can self-refer for treatment. The facility treats adults 18 and older who are dependent on opioids, alcohol or certain other drugs. Patients are admitted to the hospital for an inpatient stay that typically lasts three to five days.
More information can be found on the websites for SpecialCare, www.specialcarecorp.com, and Unity Health, www.unity-health.org.
Bowers said the detox unit is not a rehab facility, but patients will be allowed to work with discharge planners and a social-services team in moving forward toward recovery.
“We will work with them on that, and again, it is going to vary case by case on what the need is, but we have good relationships with several of the rehab centers, not just in our community, but outside of it as well,” Bowers said.
To enter into the detox program, patients can speak with their primary-care provider or call (870) 262-1648. Bowers said patients can also come to the emergency room if they want to detox, and they can receive a referral there.
“It is going to be best if referrals come from the patient because we are a volunteer program,” she said.
For more information, visit whiteriverhealthsystem.com.