SPECIAL REPORT: Parkview Health expands and rethinks treatment for substance use disorder in Wabash

Parkview Wabash IOP MAT
Millions of Americans are affected by substance use disorder (SUD), a treatable, chronic disease, characterized by a problematic use of a substance that leads to impairment or distress. Deaths caused by drug overdose have continued to increase year-to-year. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicated that in 2021, Indiana had 2,811 drug overdose deaths, an increase from the previous year.

Nearly one in 12 Indiana residents experience some form of a substance use disorder. It’s a number that continues to grow each year. Deaths caused by overdose are preventable with treatment. According to the CDC, SUD can be treated in several different ways, like through medicated treatment, outpatient counseling, inpatient rehabilitation and behavioral health care. 

While treatment is not a one-size-fits-all, having access to different treatment options can be crucial to addressing a person’s needs. 

Inside the medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and intensive outpatient program (IOP) clinic at Parkview Wabash Hospital.Here in Northeast Indiana, Parkview Health is making an effort to provide treatment options to those with SUD. This summer, Parkview Wabash Hospital, expanded its medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and intensive outpatient program (IOP) clinic to serve more people.

The expansion was a long time coming, as the MAT/IOP clinic was outgrowing its space quickly to meet the needs of the community.

“Up to that point, we were running smaller groups in our offices to piece it all together and meet the needs of the community,” says Joel Makin, program manager of substance abuse outpatient treatment, “We needed more space.”

Originally 1,155 square feet, the clinic increased in size by more than 50 percent. Adding 657 square feet, they were able to add two more consultation rooms and a secondary group meeting room.

The clinic primarily specializes in intensive outpatient programs (IOP) and medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to help patients recover. 

IOP requires three, three-hour group therapy sessions a week, along the road to recovery, but Makin says this intense schedule is part of what makes the treatment so successful.

"The growth is more rapid because the structure is higher," he says. "Some people need more to maintain recovery and we're able to offer that, nine hours a week. Structure on the outside seeps in and becomes structure on the inside too over time."

The group sessions take place in two parts. The first involves lessons on recovering and building a better, maintainable living, and the second centers on processing and practicing together. This allows for a different dynamic than individual treatment.

“You do one group therapy session with nine people (fellow patients) saying, ‘I don’t think you actually are that way. I think you learned that somewhere,’ and that’s comparable to fifty individual sessions of us (therapists) telling them that,” says Makin. “We get to the finish line a lot quicker.”

While nine hours of therapy a week may sound like a large commitment, it’s nine hours spent actively improving the patient’s life and well-being.

“It’s important to remember that the people we serve in our IOP, they’re at the highest level we serve,” says  Program Therapist Alecia Waters. “They’re already spending probably three hours a day in their addiction. They’re trying to get their life back together. We’re replacing that (addiction) with time of them working on themselves and working on their healing.”

While IOP and group therapy aren’t new concepts, Parkview Wabash puts a different spin on it. Makin says it’s typical for organizations to use the same group leader for every session, but leaders change from session to session at Parkview Wabash. 

“It allows for someone to connect with a patient the way another leader may not have,” says Makin.

This dynamic is relatively new to the clinic, having only been in use for the last year and a half, but he says it’s proven to be successful so far.

“A lot more growth has happened in this last year and a half than we’ve ever seen before,” Program Therapist Elizabeth Finicle explains. “They’re progressing faster. They’re doing deeper work, making longer-lasting changes. The benefits are really visible.” 

Having multiple therapists involved in each group allows not only the group members to grow from different perspectives, but also for the therapists themselves to learn. 

“We encourage our patients to grow, change, evolve and that’s something that we are practicing as well,” Finicle says. “That’s the beauty of having all of us work off each other, we have the opportunity to learn from each other to make ourselves better therapists for our patients.”

Having multiple pairs of eyes on each patient ensures that individuals aren’t overlooked as they progress in their recovery.

“What we’ve been learning over the last year and a half is that when those moments of relapse happen, they are more willing to come to our doors now, understanding the process and that they’re cared for,” says Finicle. “So when slip-ups happen, they’re still in contact with us to keep the ball going.” 

That level of treatment and care extends beyond IOP and continues as the patient recovers.

“One thing that we’re firm believers in is just because you complete IOP doesn’t mean that you’re done with services,” says Janet Larkin, one of the clinic’s therapists. “That mentality can be detrimental to people, having them lose all support, so we really focus on continuing that level of care, and slowly taking them out of treatment instead of ripping it away.” 

In addition to the substance use IOP at Parkview Wabash, Parkview Behavioral Health Institute offers a variety of IOP groups at many locations in Huntington, Whitley, Adams and Allen counties.

The Wabash clinic also has two medical providers dedicated to MAT. Primarily used for opioid and alcohol addiction, the use of medication in substance abuse treatment aids in recovery by decreasing cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

The benefits of MAT extend beyond limiting cravings and withdrawal, as it also increases the chance someone will continue treatment and decreases the chance of relapse, leading to significantly fewer overdose-related deaths.

As patients involved in MAT are often on medication for an extended period, the connection to the Parkview Health network allows the clinic to work with patients’ primary care physicians to find a plan that’s best for them and their overall health.

The recent expansion helps the clinic maintain this level of care, by allowing them to get patients in promptly and start recovery from the moment they feel motivated.

“We’re able to get people in the quickest, turn around for us is within a day or less than a day,” says Makin. “We’re trying to create an experience from when they walk in the door until they leave where they know they are valued.”

Larkin says being part of the Parkview network allows them to provide more complex care than an independent therapist office could.

“We can treat the patient as an entire being,” he explains. “We don’t just look at substance abuse and those treatments, we are able to connect them with doctors and services and help achieve healing at that biopsychosocial level, in a way an independent therapist office may not.”

This clinic expansion wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Wabash community. The Parkview Wabash Foundation, which funded the expansion, is supported by the people and organizations of Wabash. Where substance abuse and mental health struggles may be stigmatized in many areas, Wabash has become a place of love and support.

“We have a lot of people in the community who want to give back, through things like these grants. They want to invest in our clients, they want to see this growth, they want to learn,” says Finicle.

This community mentality doesn’t just have an impact financially, it has an impact on a personal level. 

“Our patients feel it too,” Waters says. “Our patients who have been on probation since childhood are able to see, ‘They don’t just want to lock me up and throw away the key– they see value in me,’ and realizing that allows the patient to see value in themselves.” 

The community has many organizations working to eliminate substance abuse, such as the Wabash County Drug Steering Committee, which is made up of law enforcement members, educators, healthcare workers, church leaders and recovering addicts.

Beyond the community, the government is also on the side of supporting those in recovery on their journey. The county’s local coordinating council, called AACTION (Against, Alcohol, Control Substance, Tobacco, In Our Neighborhood), offers grants to support programs to prevent substance abuse and help those suffering heal. 

Healing in a city that wants you to succeed can make all the difference in someone’s journey.

“When the community fights for you, it’s easier to fight for yourself,” says Finicle.

This report is made possible by support from Parkview Health.
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