By Luke Frank

UNM to help teens suffering drug addiction with psychiatric conditions

New inpatient service treats the most complex cases

Adolescents with substance use disorders - like addiction to opiates, such as heroin and prescribed drugs - who also suffer complex psychiatric conditions are the focus of a new inpatient treatment service at University of New Mexico Hospital.

In an August dedication ceremony, UNM Chancellor for Health Sciences Paul B. Roth, MD, MS, was joined by Bernalillo County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins and other Bernalillo County and state officials to roll out the much-needed inpatient approach to help Albuquerque and New Mexico teens embattled by an overwhelming mix of mental illness and substance abuse.

The new service is effectively an extension of UNM Hospital's (UNMH) Addiction and Substance Abuse Program's (ASAP) STAR program - a full-service outpatient service for addicted teens. Using a multidisciplinary team from UNMH and the UNM Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, STAR provides a comprehensive outpatient approach to treating addiction and mental illness that can include detoxification, psychotherapy and a host of other therapies.

Now, the UNM Children's Psychiatric Center (CPC) offers an inpatient option for the most complex patients with substance use disorders complicated by psychiatric illness. Those teens admitted into the center for treatment - regardless of ability to pay - will have access to a team of behavioral health and medical experts for comprehensive yet individualized treatment.

The CPC's new service is a redirection of focus within UNM Hospital and not expected to demand additional resources to implement. "We add services for the community when there's an expressed or demonstrated need - that's what we do," said Mauricio Tohen, MD, DrPH, MBA, professor and chair of the UNM Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. "Addiction and mental health troubles are significant in New Mexico adolescents. We need to treat the most difficult cases that combine the two in an intensive, inpatient setting."

"Inpatient treatment is a critically important option for young people with complex substance use disorders," said Bernalillo County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins. "When Turquoise Lodge closed its adolescent treatment beds last year, those patients had no place to go. We are all grateful to University of New Mexico Hospital for stepping in to fill the gap so our children will have a good shot at recovery."

"This is UNM's role - to determine the health needs of the state and respond," added Roth. "Today's a great example of state, county and university partners addressing evolving public health challenges through support and cooperation."

University of New Mexico Hospital, the state's only academic medical center and Level I Trauma center, is the primary teaching hospital for the university's School of Medicine. UNMH cares for a large, diverse population with complex and urgent health needs.

Categories: Community Engagement, Health, School of Medicine