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A vehicle for change


Members of the Drug and Alchohol Resource Team in Richmond.

“It's about being a voice for our patients and advocating their needs," says Christine Deziel, nurse for the Drug and Alcohol Resource Team (DART)​. “It's the opportunity to help be the vehicle for change and support clients, their families, and our own staff with their understanding of addictions."

Evidence-based addiction treatment, education, harm reduction and supportive care: these are the pillars of the Richmond Hospital DART team—a specialized resource team that provides services and treatment for any patient where there is an identified concern about substance use and are admitted to ER and inpatient units at Richmond Hospital. After making some program enhancements over the past couple years including additional staffing and physician/nurse practitioner coverage seven days a week, the DART team is meeting patients where they're at and sharing their expertise along the way.

What is DART?

DART provides assessments to hospital patients at the bedside, initiates treatments such as opiate agonist treatment and anti-craving medications and assists with withdrawal management. The team also supports the units with discharge planning and connects patients to community clinics and resources for ongoing care. “We're a consult-based team—we have the expertise to offer addictions treatment and medication suggestions to support the teams in ER and on the units caring for the patients," says Preeti Sawa, clinical coordinator. “We know not everyone on the care team is an expert is substance use and addictions, so it's our job to come in and provide that expertise, as well as provide education to staff so they can work with clients in a safe and trauma-informed way."

Enhanced continuum of care

Over the past two years, the DART program has focused on making some enhancements to the program so they can better support both patients and families as well as staff.

“Seeing how far the program has come is huge," says Preeti, adding that having the seven day coverage with prescribers has been a huge advantage to client care in the hospital.

“With enhanced coverage, we have more time to spend with clients—to really get to know them and meet them where they're at," says Christine, who says the added service hours allows the DART team to be able to provide seamless care and an enhanced consistency, as well as initiate more treatment versus just referrals. “Often clients we see in hospital end up coming to programs that we also facilitate in the community—it's nice to create that consistency and continuum of care with our patients so we can build trust and support them in their journey."

Changing stigma through education

While the DART team's main focus is supporting clients with addictions and substance use, they also share their expertise with staff on the units, multidisciplinary teams, as well as families to help share information about addictions and how we can all work together to support those who are struggling.

“There's still a lot of stigma attached to substance use. DART is focused on being low barrier and non-judgemental so we can help decrease that stigma," says Preeti. “By connecting with families and staff and providing them with some education about addictions and substance use, we can try to break the cycle by providing a better understanding of the issues."

SOURCE: A vehicle for change ( )
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