Thundermist Health Center is a lead contributor to efforts to address our state’s behavioral health and overdose crises. Our leaders collaborate closely with state agencies and other providers to align our services and outreach with statewide plans and goals. This includes investments to increase medication-assisted treatment, train future health care professionals, and expand the number of community health workers. Additionally, Thundermist is the backbone agency for two Health Equity Zones. Through the Health Equity Zones, we partner with law enforcement, first responders, community mental health providers, recovery advocates, and residents to develop and implement community-based responses.
In 2016, the City of Woonsocket, Rhode Island had the highest overdose death rate in the state, which was nearly twice the state average. West Warwick, Rhode Island was also disproportionately impacted with the fifth highest rate in the state. In South County, more than 30 people died from overdose. These staggering statistics compelled us to act.
In 2016, leaders at Thundermist knew access to treatment for substance use was an obstacle. Wait lists were nearly a year long, and patients were unable to obtain the treatment they needed. We knew this was unacceptable and we needed to address it. Thundermist wanted to build capacity and help to better address the opioid crisis in Rhode Island.
“This is an epidemic,” said Jeanne LaChance, president/CEO at Thundermist Health Center. “Thundermist recognizes our responsibility to make an impact – both in the exam room and in our community.”
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is identified as a key component in addressing the crisis facing our state. In fact, Governor Gina Raimondo set forth a plan to increase the use of MAT. The treatment uses medicine to fight urges, cravings, and impulsive use of substances. Medication is combined with counseling and behavioral therapy to treat substance use disorders.
Passage of the Comprehensive Addiction & Recovery Act, which was co-authored by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, provided an opportunity to expand our services. The law allows nurse practitioners and physician assistants to obtain a federal waiver to prescribe Suboxone.
Thundermist acted quickly to leverage this policy change. Currently, 35 different Thundermist providers are able to prescribe medications used to treat substance use disorder.
This increased capacity allowed Thundermist to establish a coordinated model of care that treats the whole patient. Access to medication-assisted treatment in a setting that also provides primary care, social services, and behavioral therapy helps to move patients toward an improved health status, while reducing overdoses. Thundermist also offers MAT services to pregnant patients. A trusted and familiar circle of multi-disciplinary providers care for patients.
“Our model is rooted in primary care and aims to improve the patient’s overall health,” said Michael Adamowicz, director of MAT services at Thundermist Health Center. “Prescribers provide empathetic care and medications aimed at eliminating urges, cravings, and compulsive drug use. Social services staff helps patients with insurance, housing, employment, training, and other resources to resume their lives.”
At the end of 2018, Thundermist provided medication-assisted treatment to 511 patients. Thundermist answered the call of state leaders and is a committed, integral partner in further addressing the opioid crisis.
“Patients go from hopeless dread about forever being addicted to an opioid to a sense of independence and competence,” added Adamowicz.
Thundermist Health Center has locations in Woonsocket, West Warwick and Wakefield, Rhode Island. Call 401-767-4100 for an appointment.
Thundermist Health Center is featured on the YurView television program Your Health through April 20, 2019. Your Health can be viewed in Rhode Island on Cox Channels 4 and 1004 Sundays at 7pm, Tuesdays at 7pm, Wednesdays at 9pm and Saturdays at 12:30pm and here on YurView.com.