LRGHealthcare recently marked the fifth anniversary of the Recovery Clinic at LRGHealthcare. Five years ago the Lakes Region and Twin Rivers catchment areas led the state in percentage of opioid overdose deaths. The LRGHealthcare Board of Trustees and CEO Kevin Donovan supported the opening of the first hospital-based not-for-profit treatment center in New Hampshire. Two of my colleagues, Dr. Paul Friend and Corey Gately, helped steer that opening and have been recognized statewide for their expertise in addiction medicine.

Presently there are over 500 patients receiving medically assisted treatment for addiction in our emergency rooms and outpatient clinics. National statistics estimate that an active intravenous opioid abuser will cost the community between $75,000 and $100,000 per year. Most of that dollar amount is for increased medical costs for serious blood infections and cardiac valve infections. However, that cost also includes increased crime with the associated police work and stress on our court systems. The monetary savings that come from an investment in a medically assisted treatment program for addiction is astonishing. On the personal side, these patients become homeowners, buy cars, re-engage in the community and become better, healthier parents.

The birth of an addicted baby is a tragedy. After birth, these struggling babies often spend a miserable month in the hospital battling addiction. The hospital costs alone can exceed $100,000. A number of pregnant moms have gone through our recovery clinic. Fortunately, we have not seen severely addicted babies requiring hospitalizations with new mothers from our recovery clinic.

Our hospital system has a long tradition of taking care of patients who are often drifting through the medical system without political power or monetary means. In fact, the not-for-profit public hospital system was started in our community and many other communities across the country to help us help our least fortunate patients.

Our previous CEO Tom Clairmont had the vision to start the first hospital-based dental clinic in our state. Despite financial hardships at LRGHealthcare, the doors of that clinic are still open. Tom also knew that another large group of patients in our community were falling through the cracks. He saw the mental health crisis skyrocketing as more and more vulnerable patients were boarded in our emergency rooms. Tom and the Board of Trustees opened the first psychiatric inpatient units for seniors. They also opened a psychiatric holding unit that was hospital-based at Franklin Regional Hospital. This facility has become a model for the state. In the remodel of our present Emergency Department, the Board of Trustees and CEO Kevin Donovan made sure that there was a safe, comfortable unit for psychiatric patients who needed to stay overnight in the emergency room.

These types of programs seldom contribute to the bottom line of a hospital balance sheet. Over time the benefit to the community is immeasurable. Mr. Clairmont, Mr. Donovan, and the Board of Trustees know that the more care we provide for the most vulnerable of our neighbors and families, the more we strengthen our community.

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Paul Racicot, MD, is the Medical Director of the LRGHesalthcare Recovery Clinic.

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