The Power of Collaboration

by Natalie Heidtmann, Outreach Counselor

In January 2016, BestCare Treatment Services created a new position, one that had never been utilized in this area. While I work at BestCare, I spend most of my time at various St. Charles facilities. This a collaborative venture between BestCare Treatment Services and St. Charles, funded by excess monies from a substance use disorder contract with Pacific Source Community Solutions. The position was created as a means to provide alcohol and drug treatment options and referral to services directly from the hospital setting, rather than being discharged with the hope that the patient would contact an alcohol and drug treatment provider on his/her own.

My job duties as outreach counselor were derived from similar positions, including behavioral health consultant, case manager, social worker, alcohol and drug counselor and mental health clinician. Basically, my objective was to meet with patients who were admitted to the hospital system with physical health conditions that were predicated or exacerbated by underlying substance use disorders. Our meeting would consist of a brief screening, determining the patients’ patterns of substance use, impact of substance use on important areas of their lives, including physical health, and the patients’ motivation for change. The resulting information would be used to collaborate with patients on an appropriate level of care, i.e. outpatient alcohol and drug treatment, and other areas of need, i.e. housing.

The duties of the position seemed straight forward. What I have found is that each of these duties has several layers. People don’t always fit neatly into the categories of a validated screening tool, nor do they present with the same areas of need, or physical/mental health issues. When I walk into a patient’s room, a family member or other loved one might be present with his/her own perspective on the patient’s needs, often with a clarity the patient hasn’t experienced in some time, if they have been living in active addiction. Providing support for the patient and the patient’s supportive network builds momentum and motivation for change.

What I enjoy most about this new opportunity is the collaboration of the team, including patients, loved ones and supports, doctors, nurses, nurse case managers, social workers, outpatient and residential A&D counselors and program directors, mental health clinicians, intake coordinators, and housing advocates. I believe, as humans, we get to care for each other and, because we care, we have purpose and meaning in our lives. My hope is that the patients with whom I work, experience a feeling of being cared for, as well as a sense that they are worth the care they receive.


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