Gateway Nursing Manager Presents on Medication-Assisted Treatment

James Blasko, nursing manager at Gateway Foundation treatment centers in Pekin, Springfield and Jacksonville, will present on Medication-Assisted Treatment at the Tazewell County Justice Center in Pekin on Thursday, June 28 from 12 to 2 p.m. The first 30 minutes will begin with a lunch, followed by Blasko’s presentation and a question and answer session. In his presentation, Blasko will review the medications and methods used to assist patients suffering with substance use disorder and how these medications address withdrawal symptoms, cravings and detoxification and ultimately save lives.

What is Medication-Assisted Treatment?

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) combines behavioral therapy and medications to treat substance use disorders. Gateway Foundation centers provide MAT as part of a comprehensive program that includes counseling and therapy to help individuals modify their behavior to make better lifestyle changes for long-term success.

MAT is an evidence-based treatment option proven to reduce or eliminate cravings, decrease withdrawal symptoms and reduce the risk of relapse.

Who is James Blasko?

After spending 16 years in the intensive care unit at a hospital, Blasko took a job with Gateway Foundation treatment center in Springfield and has been with Gateway ever since. He currently serves as the nursing manager for Gateway treatment centers in Springfield, Pekin and Jacksonville. He cites the patients, the family dynamic of the staff, the work he is doing and how many people it is helping as what he loves most about his job at Gateway.

Blasko is no stranger to MAT. He was one of the main forces behind Gateway’s initiative to offer Narcan to patients and their loved ones after treatment.

“I felt very strongly about helping our clients succeed and their families to feel a little more relief about taking them home and knowing if there was a relapse they could save their loved one’s life,” Blasko says.

Blasko’s commitment to patients goes beyond the sites’ walls. When Gateway patients cannot access the facilities in Springfield, he drives 45 minutes to Lincoln to provide it. He picks up medications from CVS and Walgreens for patients who are unable to pick them up. He also administers shots at area jails because MAT has been proven to reduce recidivism.

To learn more or attend the free event, click here.

Gateway Presents New Program at National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit

The National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit took place in Atlanta this week, and two of Gateway’s own attended to speak about a new program on Thursday. Also in attendance were special speakers President Bill Clinton, Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, and U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams.

Karen Wolownik-Albert, Gateway Lake Villa executive director, and Sally Thoren, Chicago-Independence executive director, presented on Project Warm Hand Off. This federally funded initiative targets those struggling with opioid use and works to remove barriers to treatment. Using the Screening Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) model, this program aims to connect people struggling with opioid use disorders to treatment directly from emergency departments. Recovery coaches follow up with patients to ensure the Warm Hand Off is completed, and also with patients who initially declined assistance. “We call it ‘intercepting’ those in crisis and shepherding them to care,” Thoren says.

Biggest takeaways

“We were thrilled to find our room full of interested attendees,” Thoren says. “We found that the challenges we faced in implementation have been experienced by most others as well, including delays in hospitals agreeing to partner, capacity issues, and challenges with the Medicaid changes.”

Thoren left the conference struck by New York’s coordinated, state-wide efforts against the opioid crisis.

“They have obtained the waiver that allows for more services to be paid by Medicaid, so they don’t have the capacity challenges we face in Illinois,” she elaborates. “They have robust needle exchange programs, embracing a harm-reduction approach. They have outstanding data demonstrating their effectiveness.”

Dr. Adams’ presentation garnered most of the national attention: He issued the first surgeon general national public health advisory in 13 years, urging more Americans to carry naloxone, an antidote that blocks the effects of opioids and reverses overdoses.

“We fully support the surgeon general’s advisory,” Wolownik-Albert says. “At Gateway, we have been working for several years to increase naloxone access and provide education to clients, alumni, and family. Our goal is to ensure that everyone in need of naloxone has access to this life-saving medication. We train all of our staff on overdose prevention and administering naloxone.”

“In northern Illinois, we are very fortunate in comparison to other areas of the country, to have many programs and collaborations to combat the Opioid Epidemic,” Wolownik-Albert says.

Dr. Adams stated that more access to naloxone alone will not solve this crisis – access to evidence-based treatment also must be expanded.

“The ‘tone’ was one of action, not a ‘call to action,’” Thoren says. “That is, since there is universal agreement that this crisis is real, the need is great, the tone was ‘we are doing’ as opposed to ‘we must do.’”

 

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