Jackson Health pilot program tackles heroin addiction

Emergency room sign

Photo credit: Getty/Nils Versemann

As the nation’s opioid addiction epidemic continues, a spike in heroin overdoses led one Florida hospital to develop a pilot rehab program.

Miami-based Jackson Memorial Hospital saw heroin overdoses jump from fewer than 40 in September 2014 to more than 180 last month, according to an article in the Miami Herald. Heroin-addicted patients also have a high rate of relapse, so doctors, hospital leaders and a judge in Miami-Dade County drug courts teamed up on an outpatient intervention program.

“Many of these patients, even those we see in the news, come back two days, three days later with an overdose,” Amado Alejandro Baez, M.D., an emergency room physician at the hospital, told the newspaper. “What we would like to do is start looking at integrated solutions, looking at the chain of problems.”

The program will work with addicted patients from their initial detox through long-term care, providing needed rehabilitation and psychological counseling, according to the article. The three-year pilot will be funded with $1.4 million in grants from two federal agencies. Jackson Health System--the parent system of the 1,550-bed Jackson Memorial--will partner with the University of Miami Health System, the South Florida Behavioral Health Network and the Miami-Dade Circuit Court.

The pilot is expected to begin enrolling patients in four months, Nicoletta Tessler, chief executive of Jackson Behavioral Health Hospital, told the Herald. Between 50 and 80 patients are expected to participate in the pilot in each of its three years, using medicated-assisted treatment and counseling to reduce recidivism.