Expanding Care for an Expansive Problem
Daniel Sumrok, MD, director of the Center for Addiction Science, recently visited the White House to share what UTHSC is doing in the area of addiction medicine. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, psychiatric and substance use disorders have expanded coverage, which is helping the medical community create behavioral solutions. UT’s progress in the area of addiction clinical care was showcased in an effort to rally members of the medical community to focus more on managing addiction. “The good news is that more universities are getting involved,” says Dr. Sumrok. “Already we have 36 universities across the country on board – that’s 10 more than last month.”
Reaching this point took Dr. Sumrok more than a decade. His passion for the field of addiction stems from his experience at his family practice in McKenzie, Tennessee, where he discovered that many of his patients suffered from substance use disorders. “Each of the Top 10 causes of death in the United States, which account for 80 percent of all U.S. deaths, are driven by, or have significant links to, a substance use disorder,” explains Dr. Sumrok. “I felt I needed to be well versed on addiction so that I could better treat my patients.”
Dr. Sumrok took courses at Harvard and with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, but still wasn’t satisfied. He found a program with the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), which required that he devote 50 percent of his practice to substance use disorders and then sit for a test. In 2007, Dr. Sumrok joined 105 doctors around the world to become the first to be board certified in addiction medicine.
Although Dr. Sumrok was making an impact in his practice, he knew more could be done. He approached the UTHSC College of Medicine about starting an addiction program, which happened to be in synergy with the university’s desire to enhance its clinical footprint and create a valuable service for patients.
The UTHSC Center for Addiction Science
Dr. Sumrok teamed up with Paul Hill, MD, assistant professor for the UTHSC Department of Psychiatry, to create the framework for the Center for Addiction Science and started the process to form an addiction medicine fellowship.
Dr. Hill believed the Center for Addiction Science was a move in the right direction. “Having nontraditional medical staff interface with addiction patients through clinical care offers a great opportunity for the people of Memphis,” says Dr. Hill. “We will be able to better manage substance use and process disorders and coordinate a patient’s movement from one level of care to another.”
By training across disciplines, more medical practitioners will know how to identify and treat substance use and process addictions. Cooperation between basic science and clinical science is unusual in medical universities, but participating departments at UTHSC already include family medicine, psychiatry, general internal medicine, emergency medicine, and anesthesia.
The addiction clinical care program will focus on the assessment of substance use and process (for example gambling or sex) disorders, referral to the appropriate level of treatment, detoxification and abstinence, harm reduction treatments, treatment of co-occurring psychiatric disorders, and collaboration and consultation with referring physicians and other agencies.
The Center for Addiction Science is partnering with a number of entities, including Acadia Healthcare, one of the largest providers of mental health services in the country, and Foundations Recovery Network, to create and enhance centers of excellence that address unmet community needs. Currently, addiction clinics have been set up in collaboration with the Behavioral Health Group (BHG), Delta Medical Center, The Veterans Administration1, and St. Francis Hospital. Positive results can already be seen. For example, at BHG, the treatment of addicted pregnant mothers has resulted in the birth of more healthy babies.
In the coming months, stand-alone clinics for addiction care will be set up, including an outpatient clinic and inpatient treatment along with intensive outpatient and partial hospital programs.
In July 2016, the Center for Addiction Science will be part of the first wave across the country to admit its initial fellows. “We will start with two fellows who will have the option for a one-year primarily clinical fellowship in preparation for American Board of Addiction Medicine certification or a two-year fellowship with opportunities to earn a Master’s Degree and/or participate in clinical research,” says Dr. Sumrok.
“Through the fellowship, the residents will be able to see addiction treatment in real time,” adds Dr. Hill. “This program will create a ripple effect of expertise, which will expand our ability to treat patients at all levels.”
Written by Darcie Goodwin