July 1st, 2016

Harrington Hospital to open dual diagnosis unit

Citing the desire to fulfill an unmet need, Harrington Health Care System is planning to open a Dual Diagnosis Unit (DDU) for the treatment of individuals who have an addiction concurrent with a mental health crisis at its Webster, Massachusetts campus.

Greg Mirhej, Harrington’s executive director for behavioral health, said, “Too often the care of those who suffer with both of these types of conditions is compartmentalized. Units, which are adept at treating the addiction spectrum of disorders, have limited access to qualified mental health care. Meanwhile, plenty of inpatient mental health units perform detox procedures for addiction, but few can offer the intensive support needed by persons in relapse from their addiction. We know from recent data that of those struggling with dual disorders, the majority – 55.8 percent – don’t receive any treatment for either disorder.”

Care in the Harrington Hospital DDU will address the acute medical, psychiatric and addiction needs of individuals in central Massachusetts and northern Connecticut and Rhode Island, according to Richard Listerud, M.D., medical director of recovery services.

He explained that once a patient has medical clearance, usually accessed through an emergency room, a team of professionals experienced in treating dual diagnosis will conduct an initial evaluation.

This team will include a psychiatrist, nurse practitioner, psychologist, social worker, occupational therapist, nurses and mental health/addictions counselors.

“Clients will be assessed continuously by nursing staff and daily by other professional staff, with the aims of stabilization, support, referral and re-integration into the community,” Listerud added. “Average length of stay is expected to be four to 12 days.”

The DDU will include step-down options that encompass a comprehensive range of services, Mirhej said.

A new Partial Hospital Program (PHP) will complement the already well-established Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) for substance abuse and PHP for psychiatric disorders within the Harrington Health Care system.

“In these treatment options, individuals will engage in intensive daily group therapy – expected to be six hours each day. Less intensive step-down options include the Relapse Prevention Group, which is 90 minutes per day of therapy and weekly addiction oriented group therapy,” he said.

“The recovery of all of our patients with substance use and mental health disorders will be supported by routine drug screening, psychiatric follow-up and an option for individual counseling.”

Design and planning for the 16-bed unit began in 2014; the unit is expected to be ready for occupancy later this year.

By Phyllis Hanlon

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