Supporting Recovery Through Warm Handoffs
by Emilie Dauch, M.A., LPC, CADC II
For the last two years, supported by of our local coordinated care organization PacificSource Community Solutions, BestCare assumed a more prominent and trusted role in developing an outcomes based service delivery system for individuals with moderate to severe substance use disorders. This resulted in both clinicians and the clients they serve reaping significant benefits demonstrated by the outcomes we have been tracking.
A key factor in achieving those outcomes has been improving clinical coordination between service locations and levels of care, both within BestCare’s residential and outpatient programs and with our other outpatient community partners such as Pfeifer and Associates. “Warm handoffs” involve more than just giving a referral to outpatient treatment when clients complete residential episodes of care. “Warm handoffs” require involving clients’ natural support systems and clinicians from their home outpatient program to make them aware of service plans and clients’ progress toward treatment goals, and identify ongoing needs to be addressed after transition to a lower level of care. No one recovers in isolation.
The coordination of care between residential and outpatient providers to facilitate the type of “warm handoff” that research demonstrates is most effective in supporting recovery involves many moving parts. It requires partnering with clients to engage with their support networks, or helping them build such networks if they don’t exist or were broken during active addiction. A “warm handoff” ideally involves in-person interaction whenever possible. When not possible due to distance between locations or the hectic schedules of many treatment providers a telephone conference scheduled in advance to facilitate transfer of provider responsibility during transitions may also be effective.
Care coordination holds each clinician accountable for clients’ outcomes, whether they are coming into or going out of their particular level of care. For discharging providers, accountability lasts until clients get to the next level of care and engages successfully at that level. When a residential client will transition to an outpatient community program, the outpatient clinician shares responsibility for that client as soon as the first contact is made.
Programs that can demonstrate quality of care, by improving patient engagement and retention in ongoing care, and practicing “warm handoffs” to the next step have a competitive advantage in a global healthcare environment because they can demonstrate that treatment works when it includes a high level of care coordination. Recovery can be lasting and sustained when we recognize that “we are all in this together”.
Emilie Dauch, M.A., LPC, CADC II
Director of Clinical Quality and Accreditation
Best Care Treatment Services