Colebrook, N.H., September 23, 2022 – Recognizing the importance of a whole community response to substance use disorder, Upper Connecticut Valley Hospital (UCVH) has launched a project to reduce the stigma of addiction and to change the culture of assumptions around caring for community members struggling with substance use disorder (SUD). This community- wide response can spread new models of shared communication and genuine support for all citizens.
This culture-change response is framed best by asking these questions: Would I be happy with the person I love the most receiving this level of care? This treatment?
Lindsay Lea, Chief Nursing Officer, and project champion notes, “First, we acknowledge the work that various organizations, other hospitals, and individuals have accomplished already in addressing this community challenge. We are addressing this community challenge on distinct levels: Beginning this month, all UCVH staff started attending trainings on compassionate, responsive care for community members struggling with substance use disorders. Soon, we will offer training to the community to encourage a community-wide approach to substance use disorder. An important part of this project is to identify resources that have an authentic and responsive presence in the North Country.”
Erik Petersen is the project leader at UCVH. Erik has broad experience working in the recovery arena, from fundraising to group facilitation and case management. His experience includes work among New England-based treatment centers and with the Maine-based non-profit, “The Family Restored” which has a mission to help those afflicted by addiction, and their families. Petersen says, “This UCVH project is informed by C.A.R.E an acronym that captures our work and its intended effect: Compassion (stepping into the shoes of those who are suffering); Awareness (seeing the reality that this issue exists in your community and, perhaps among family and friends); Resources (identifying helpful resources and their viability in New Hampshire’s North Country; Education (acknowledging that our work is only as good as our knowledge – having a willingness to listen, learn, read, share).”
Petersen continues, “Stigmatization diminishes the soul of everyone affected, from the person struggling with SUD, to the healthcare providers and staff, and the broader community. Our project is about recovery – moving people towards who they want to be, healed, growing – recovering.”
Since receiving a May 2022 grant from NH Health Communities, the UCVH project has helped five patients into SUD rehabilitation programs and continues to provide connections to resources, where, Petersen says, “Phones are answered, phone calls are returned, doors are unlocked, and help does exist.” The program includes a hospital-wide UCVH workgroup to identify and help heal organizational and community-based stigma around substance use disorder; and a commitment to strengthening accountable partnerships with North Country Recovery Center, The Doorway Program at Androscoggin Valley Hospital, Northern Human Services, the AskPETRA program of the North Country Health Consortium, Coos County Family Health Services – Colebrook, North Country Medical & Wellness, and Weeks Medical Center Primary Care – Colebrook & North Stratford.
“Individuals who want to be in recovery face an uphill battle, and many have limited support,” states Lea, “we want to focus on helping community members who are struggling with SUD find the easiest route to recovery services by removing the barriers that come with stigma, and turning them towards compassion and understanding. This program is very much about educating the UCVH staff and extending support and education to the whole community – eventually experiencing our own shared recovery from stigmatization and judgement.”
The upcoming training series titled “Addressing Stigma and Health Disparities in SUD and Mental Health” is offered in partnership with the North Country Health Consortium AskPETRA program to enhance understanding of the process of recovery, and to foster compassion towards those community members struggling with substance use disorder. Petersen notes, “There is no such thing as linear growth in recovery, nor is there a singular path to recovery. That, in and of itself, is a challenging reality for the community. The Hospital can be this community’s leader in SUD care, and a resource that answers the question, “Where do I go if I want help?”
Upper Connecticut Valley Hospital, an affiliate of North Country Healthcare, is a 16-bed critical access hospital serving 20 communities and 8,500 people in its service area which includes communities in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. UCVH provides over 4,000 emergency department visits, 325 outpatient surgeries, 300 inpatient admissions, 7,000 imaging studies and 140,000 laboratory tests annually. UCVH offers a broad array of services including a 24/7 fully-staffed emergency department, outpatient surgical care, cardiac rehabilitation, inpatient care, ambulatory care, x-ray, MRI, CT scans, mammography, outpatient rehabilitation, laboratory services and more.
Foundation for Healthy Communities, located in Concord, NH, works with partners statewide, striving to build healthier communities for all by leading partnerships, fostering collaboration, and creating innovative solutions to advance health and healthcare.
Please visit https://www.ucvh.org/department/behavioral-health/ for resources. Community trainings will be announced on the UCVH web page and Facebook page as well as in local newspapers.