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Getting medical treatment is a special challenge for people addicted to opiates

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If you're sick - where do you go?

Your family doctor... An urgent care clinic... Or if things are serious enough, a hospital.

But what defines if you're sick?

It’s a simple question for the patient... But gets more complicated when you consider the challenges of addiction.

“I tell you stories, many many stories of people who have actually gone to ERs, brought their children to ERs who are overdosing and so the ER will stabilize them and discharge them, and the parents are saying what? How can you discharge them they need help.”

It’s a problem Nancy Jones and "New Choices Recovery" see every day... People confused or unaware about where they should go for help.

“Hospitals aren't set up as treatment facilities so most people will enter into an ER because they’re overdosing or they’re sick or they’re something of that nature”

Hospital ERs won't turn away overdosing addicts - those in immediate need of life saving help.

The problems come after that help, when a patient is deemed stable and needs continuing care.

We spoke with Dr. Melissa Weimer at Saint Peter's Health Partners - about what happens when someone who’s overdosing goes to an ER for help.

“When an ER determines whether someone should be admitted to the hospital or not they have a certain criteria that you have to meet and if you had an overdose from an opioid - and we reverse that and now you're breathing and now you're talking and now you're ‘fine.’ Having opioid withdrawal alone is not an indication for most hospitals to admit you to a hospital.”

Doctor Weimer and her team at Saint Peter’s are working to change the way hospital deal with addiction by expanding their capacity to treat everyone who wants to get better.

“We basically turned that on its head in the last year and said if you present to our ER and you want help, even if you're not in enough withdrawal - we're going to help you.”

And it’s working.

Dr. Weimer says they've treated more than 400 patients over the last six months, and connected between 80 and 85 percent of them with continuing care.

One of them is Carlie Mace.

“It just spirals down, it’s just horrible how quickly it can spiral.”

She told us about the first time she decided to get treatment for her addiction to opiates.

“I asked my aunt to come and get me and as soon as she knocked on the door, I was like, ‘I can’t do this.’ All of a sudden it’s real, so real, and my aunt wasn’t taking no for an answer at that point.”

“If we don’t have anything to provide them, even if it’s you know someone to talk to them in a way that is supportive of them and helps them recognize there are treatment options out there, then potentially we've failed in that moment. We've not capitalized on that reachable moment,” Dr. Weimer said.

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