Faulkner addiction clinic closure debated

JAMAICA HILLS—Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital plans to close an in-patient drug addiction clinic in favor of a new specialized addiction team. The change, expected to happen around May 1, is being pitched by the hospital as a service improvement. But critics, including local state Rep. Liz Malia, say it is based on funding.

“In an era when substance abuse is at all-time high and resources are at an all-time low, it is unconscionable to those of us in the field to destroy one of the few inpatient, hospital-based programs left in Massachusetts,” a Faulkner employee who asked to remain anonymous told the Gazette.

“We’re shifting resources around to serve the needs we’re seeing in the community,” Faulkner Professional Clinical Services Vice President Ed Liston-Kraft told the Gazette.

Currently, Faulkner, located at 1153 Centre St., offers 14 beds in a special unit for addiction patients with other medical issues. The change would mean that those patients would be admitted to medical units that would coordinate with an addiction treatment team. Other addiction patients without additional medical issues would be treated in a new walk-in clinic.

Nurses from the addiction clinic said that patients are currently being transferred to medical beds instead of being discharged, Liston-Kraft said. The shift would admit them directly to a medical unit while being monitored by both addiction and medical teams.

“The innovation here is that there’s not another hospital in the state that has an addiction team that works full-time with the medical team,” Liston-Kraft said.

“We are a medical unit. We’re in a hospital. Our nurses are completely trained, most of them with master’s degrees,” the Faulkner employee said.

Concerns that the shift is financially motivated are not far behind, however.

“My understanding is that [the reorganization is] being pushed by insurance companies. They don’t want to pay for beds for opiates patients,” the Faulkner employee said.

“I don’t believe” the shift is cost-motivated, Liston-Kraft said. “We’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do.”

“I’m very concerned about it,” Rep. Malia told the Gazette. “I understand this is about finances. The number of accessible beds just don’t seem nowhere near enough [and] they don’t get reimbursed much for those beds.”

“[But] we just don’t have the resources to fight this battle,” Malia concluded. She is the chair of the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse in the state legislature.

“We look forward to working with the Faulkner and our community partners to ensure that people struggling with substance abuse and recovery issues continue to have access to high quality treatment and support,” JP resident and Boston Public Health Commission Executive Director Barbara Ferrer said.

Staff from the addiction clinic would be “repurposed” for the addiction unit, Liston-Kraft said.

“It looks like we’ll be able to keep most people” from the current clinic, Liston-Kraft said. “We’re working with HR right now.”

“Nurses are being offered severance packages,” the Faulkner employee said.

The state Department of Public Health is holding a purely advisory hearing about Faulkner’s plan on Feb. 15 at 2 p.m. at the DPH offices, 250 Washington St. downtown, according to a legal notice published in the Boston Globe. Written comments can be sent through Feb. 15 to [email protected] or Department of Public Health, Division of Health Care Quality, Attn: Closure Coordinator, 11th Floor, 99 Chauncy St., Boston, MA 02111.

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