Helping people with dependencies

Posted: Monday, March 13, 2000

Emergency and chemical dependency health care workers change the course of people in crisis. We do this 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

We do this by guiding and treating people through emergency detoxification for the first 24 hours. We follow our physician's ED detox protocol using medications such as librium for elevated vital signs and tigan for vomiting and nausea.

Next, the patient is moved into detoxification when vitals are more stable and remains there for up to five days. If the patient wants the 21-day program, they are referred to a chemical dependency counselor. Depending on the urgency or risk to an unborn child and mother they are accepted into the program immediately.

Of course there are those in the chemical dependency client user group that abuse Juneau Recovery Hospital's trust. Some of our patients are homeless, without insurance and have a long history of using our facility on a weekly basis. We are the safety net for these people and alleviate the social strain and cost to other CBJ agencies such as police, ambulance, Bartlett Regional Hospital and Lemon Creek Correction Center. Not to mention the tourist shops in the summer months. In the winter the JRH unit makes sure that the street people or one of our taxpaying citizen's doesn't die on Juneau's streets.

We are CBJ's front-line emergency medical responders to alcohol and drug dependency situations. We are required to respond to crisis calls within 10 minutes of receiving them. In addition, we make a minimum of two town checks during three different shifts a day. If a safe home with a sober adult can be found the one emergency medical technician on shift will transport that individual in medical custody. If not, depending on if we have a bed, they are admitted to our facility. Next the registered nurse administers the prescribed protocol.

If no bed is available the patient is taken to Bartlett's emergency room to be checked by a physician and put on a 12-hour hold. The individual is then transported to Lemon Creek Correction Center in a non-criminal status for 12 hours to sober up. If the person is seen repeatedly in our unit or has a life-threatening chemical dependency issue, we again run them through Bartlett's emergency room and they are put on a 48-hour hold. This seemingly drastic step is taken to give the individual more sober time and a breather from an out-of-control life.

When an individual needs help and is strong enough to admit they have a problem of addiction, they can call the Juneau Recovery Hospital at 463-7098. We've been in the business of helping people take control of their lives for 20 years this April.

Thank you for your continued support in letting us treat our fellow Juneauites.

Gunnar Noreen is an emergency medical technician for Juneau Recovery Hospital.

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