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Intermountain Healthcare working with communities to address opioid use disorders

Intermountain Healthcare working with communities to address opioid use disorders


Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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It takes a community to help those in need. This is evident as community partners and Intermountain Healthcare join together to help people living with opioid use disorders who also dealing with serious infections.

Their goal is to help people transition more quickly from the hospital into addiction treatment centers so that they can receive the help they need.

Here is how the program is helping our communities — and those at risk.

Opioid use disorders rise

Dr. Dean Mayer, a hospitalist at Intermountain, noticed the issue escalating in 2014 with more patients arriving in the hospital with injection-related infections from heroin and methamphetamine use. This may have been in part because of the rise in opioid use disorders that was occurring in Utah and throughout the United States.

The infections usually require a peripherally inserted central catheter, or a PICC line, that must be placed in the arm or chest, which then delivers antibiotics directly to the major veins in the heart.

It’s critical to have medical providers monitor the patient during this time. Yet, for a patient who has used an opioid such as heroin or meth, withdrawals from substance use begin and can be drastic, so there’s also an immediate need for them to enter addiction treatment centers. Drug withdrawals could be handled with methadone or suboxone treatments while the treatment centers help them if they accept these patients.

"It was, and has been, critical to address and treat these withdrawals to achieve compliance from patients to engage in the treatment of their infections," Mayer said.

Community partners stepping up

Mayer worked to first establish a relationship with the Volunteers of America, Utah (VOAUT) to establish five inpatient rooms at the VOAUT Center.

Patients, if they want, can be transferred to immediate recovery for their substance use disorder while Intermountain HomeCare providers make visits to participating treatment centers to monitor and treat infections through the PICC lines.

"We are always pleased to partner with Intermountain Healthcare to create new opportunities for people to live healthier lives. We have seen participants both complete their medical treatment and increase motivation for living a life free of substance use," said Kathy Bray, president and CEO of Volunteers of America, Utah.

The Odyssey House non-profit treatment centers in Utah were also able to help patients who detoxed in VOAUT and then required further treatment for their substance use disorder.

"This innovative, collaborative approach is literally saving lives. Working together, we are reducing the tragic and unnecessary deaths we’ve seen from the opioid epidemic," said Adam Cohen, CEO of Odyssey House.

Before this program, chances for successful rehabilitation from a substance use disorder after a major infection was 10 percent or less. Now with this program, and the help of the recovery treatment partners, successful completion of infection treatment is close to 50 percent.

The primary reason for the turnaround? Prior to the community partnership, patients had to wait until their PICC lines were removed and their infections addressed before they could get into recovery centers to address the substance use disorders. That means that 90 percent would continue using drugs or die from their addiction and infection before getting into a recovery program.

How to get help

The program is now expanding down to Utah County and Weber County.

If you or a loved one are dealing with substance use disorders, there are resources available throughout the state. Visit the SAMHSA website at or call 2-1-1 or visit to find help near you.

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Healthy Mind Matters


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