A multi-year partnership between Gateway Foundation and two local hospitals—St. Anthony Hospital at 2879 W. 19th Street and the University of Illinois Hospital (UI Health) at 1740 W. Taylor St.—now places addiction treatment specialists inside emergency departments and med-surg floors, leading more people to lifesaving treatment through the Warm Hand Off Program.
Now in sixth year at various hospitals, the program aims to refer hospital patients showing signs of addiction into treatment services immediately. Since its inception, Gateway Foundation has provided more than 5,000 Illinois residents with education, outreach, and screenings about their substance use disorder and treatment options. Prior to Gateway Foundation’s program, hospitals often released these patients without any addiction recovery plans, and they often cycled back into the hospital.
“Nearly 72% of those who die of an overdose averaged four previous hospital visits, said Karen Lambert, president of Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, IL, which has participated in the program since 2018. “If we don’t collectively address the core of someone’s substance use disorder, their next overdose could be their last. The Warm Hand Off program is saving lives.”
The U.S. continues to face mounting addiction. According to the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 107,622 people overdosed in the U.S. in 2021 – an increase of nearly 15% from 2020. Fatal overdoses rose from 21.7% to 28.3%. In addition, fentanyl-laced opioids continue to cause mass overdose deaths.
The Warm Hand Off Program goes into action when a hospital staffer identifies patients in their emergency rooms with substance use disorder. Then, a Gateway Foundation addiction specialist performs an intake screening to determine next-level care. Specialists work to transfer the patient to the appropriate level of treatment upon discharge.
“The Warm Hand Off Program gives us the ability to respond quickly to these patients,” said Teresa Garate, senior vice president of Gateway Foundation. “When someone makes the decision to seek help, time is of the essence. If they don’t immediately go into treatment, the chances that they will go at a later date are slim, and we may lose a life.”
In Illinois, 26 hospitals participate in the Warm Hand Off Program.
“Gateway Foundation continues to partner with more Illinois hospitals in our collective fight to battle substance use addiction,” Garate said. “As the number of people with substance use disorder and overdoses continues to rise, Gateway Foundation is expanding this program.”
The program is funded in part by a grant from the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Division of Substance Use Prevention and Recovery.
Gateway Foundation provides addiction treatment services for clients diagnosed with co-occurring mental health disorders. Over 50 years, Gateway Foundation’s professional clinicians have helped more than a million people and their families recover from substance use disorders by developing personalized plans to treat the underlying causes of addiction.
Gateway’s 24-hour hotline is (855) 925-GATE (4283), or log on to www.gatewayfoundation.org.