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Dome - A Treatment Sum That is Greater Than Its Parts

Dome, Nov. 2009

A Treatment Sum That is Greater Than Its Parts

By: Karen Blum
Date: November 9, 2009

Introducing the Johns Hopkins Center for Substance Abuse Treatment and Research


Eric Stain
Eric Stain has helped unite the myriad Hopkins substance abuse programs and share research, referrals and best practices.

When administrators with the Cornerstone Clinic, a drug and alcohol treatment center at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, were seeking participants for a grant-funded study, they turned to a relatively new resource: the Johns Hopkins Center for Substance Abuse Treatment and Research.

Rita Cardim, the center’s assistant administrator, put them in touch with leaders at other Hopkins substance abuse programs, such as the rapid detox unit at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Hopkins-run outpatient programs, located at 911 N. Broadway.

As recently as two years ago, however, it would have been much tougher to make those connections because, even though there are 16 formal substance abuse programs on Hopkins’ East Baltimore and Bayview campuses, each got started independently.

“Johns Hopkins has a long history of very strong clinical research programs related to addiction,” explains psychiatrist Eric Strain, director of the new center. (In its outpatient programs alone, Hopkins treats more than 1,000 patients a day.) “But the programs tended to intersect primarily related to research and not in a formal, regular way.”

Hopkins leaders, he says, didn’t have a clear sense of how much care was being provided to which patients, how much care was uncompensated, or how many patients had particular disorders such as opioid addictions. They also wanted to know whether any care was being duplicated or if there were any unmet needs.

The idea for a center arose when a Hopkins Hospital committee chaired by Executive Vice President and COO Judy Reitz was investigating challenges in discharge planning. One group of inpatients they identified were those with substance abuse problems being treated at the myriad programs run by either the Department of Medicine or the Department of Psychiatry

As a result, says Anita Langford, vice president of Care Management Services at Bayview, “everyone began to see opportunities to link both campuses and departments.” Langford, because of her psychiatric nursing background and contacts, was tapped by Reitz to facilitate early discussions that led to the center’s creation.

Now an umbrella for overseeing all Hopkins’ substance abuse efforts, the center has been working on numerous fronts. Cardim had found, for example, that most individual program managers admitted not knowing enough about what the other programs do. So she’s compiled a referral tool detailing each program and plans to add information from additional programs that provide substance abuse care as part of other clinical offerings. And she and Strain are developing a Web site with links to the various programs and information for patients, referring physicians and family members.

Strain says he also hopes to interest young investigators in substance abuse research, take on more of a government advocacy role, hold continuing medical education courses and work with providers in the community.

Overall, Strain says, he hopes the center will become a valued resource: “We don’t want to lose the entrepreneurial spirit of the distinct programs. It’s as if we have these individual jewels, and we want to create a bracelet.”

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