5 Questions: Opioid Treatment Network at Klickitat Valley Health
Penny Andress, Nurse Care Manager at KVH shares how community stakeholders are coming together to support the county’s opioid response.
Klickitat Valley Health (KVH) is a nonprofit healthcare provider in Goldendale, Washington. KVH encompasses several facilities including Klickitat Valley Hospital, KVH Family Medicine and Home Health & Hospice. Since 2018, SWACH has supported KVH’s efforts to establish an Opioid Treatment Network (OTN) that improves access to treatment for those experiencing opioid use disorder. We spoke with Penny Andress, Nurse Care Manager at KVH, about how community stakeholders are coming together to support the county’s opioid response.
How did the Opioid Treatment Network come about and why is it needed?
Klickitat County has experienced significant changes in recent years as parts of the community have gentrified and people are pushed toward our rural communities. We’ve seen a significant increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness or struggling in other ways. And of course, substance use disorder (SUD) disproportionately impacts people in those situations.
That led us to look at ways to bring new resources to the table as well as organize existing resources, particularly around the opioid issue. In the past, those experiencing opioid use disorder (OUD) had to leave the area for treatment. That’s a huge barrier when people are ready to get help. KVH secured a grant through the State Opioid Response (SOR)/SAHMSA to set up an evidence-based Medication Assisted Therapy (MAT) program. We also wanted to use the funding to develop a robust network of resources to meet those with OUD where they are at – whether that’s in the hospital, emergency room, jail or another setting.
Our vision is to train providers and nursing staff to identify those struggling with SUD and give them the option to get some relief with Suboxone or Vivitrol. We also aim to have a warm handoff to the appropriate agencies or programs like Pathways HealthConnect. That helps ensure they don’t fall through the cracks once they are back in the community.
Who are some of the partners?
We are fortunate to have a very diverse group of partners, including Comprehensive Healthcare, Klickitat County, SWACH Pathways HealthConnect, Coalition for Prevention and Abuse, Father’s House, WGAP, Klickitat County Jail, and People for People, to name a few.
The SWACH Pathways HealthConnect program has been especially powerful. I’m able to do warm handoffs to the HealthConnect Community Health Workers (CHWs) or peers, and they do a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of connecting people to resources, helping them find housing or driving them to appointments. They’ll even come with me into the jail and figure out what people need so that as soon as they set foot on the pavement, they have support in connecting to services and treatment.
Can you share a few examples of early successes?
One of our biggest successes is establishing a MAT clinic at KVH. We’ve been able to help people who are deep into their addiction move their life forward in the right direction. Not every encounter is a success story, but it’s important to celebrate small victories.
For example, we recently had a patient in town because they had to take care of a family member in the area. The patient was enrolled in a MAT program in another city and concerned they wouldn’t be able to continue their treatment. We were able to induct them into our MAT program and ensure that they didn’t fall through the cracks.
People are often surprised that we even have a MAT program in a smaller community like Goldendale. But being small also allows us to be more agile. We take advantage of that by keeping the barriers really low.
I understand you are partnering with the Klickitat County Jail. Why is that important?
We knew that the jail was an important partner in our efforts. Risk for SUD and recidivism is very high among the incarcerated population. Getting people into treatment before they are back in the community can have a huge impact.
However, getting into the jail and providing support – specifically, MAT – to this population requires a paradigm shift. We faced some barriers in the beginning. However, we’ve developed a very positive working relationship with the superintendent, who is very forward thinking and has given us a lot of support.
It’s not easy but that’s where our agility is so helpful. For example, when one of our MAT patients was incarcerated, we had to find ways to go into the jail every day to help with their treatment. We were literally going in there on evenings or weekends just to make sure they stayed the course. Today that person is out of jail and continues working through the recovery process.
How has SWACH been involved/supported this effort?
SWACH has played important roles in terms of both mentorship and education. SWACH’s Eric McNair Scott and Jim Jensen have been an integral part of getting this program started and keeping it going.
Plus, we meet regularly with local stakeholders, including SWACH, Pathways HealthConnect, WGAP, etc., and strategize what we can do together. The Pathways program in particular, through WGAP and SWACH, has a been a fantastic resource.
Everybody pulling together has been amazing. This is public health at its best. This is how things should work in public health and I’m proud to be part of it.
Penny Andress, RN, BSN, is a Nurse Care Manager at Klickitat Valley Health Family Medicine. Learn more about KVH at http://www.kvhealth.net/