Bartlett Hospital converts addiction recovery center into spillover for COVID-19 patients

Hospital staff move equipment into the Rainforest Recovery Center on April 6. City officials converted the drug and alcohol rehabilitation center into an emergency spillover shelter for COVID-19 patients at Bartlett Regional Hospital. The shelter is designed to house patients who don’t need critical medical care. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

All patients in the residential substance abuse program at Juneau’s city-owned hospital were discharged last month.

According to Bartlett Regional Hospital Chief Behavioral Health Officer Bradley Grigg, Rainforest Recovery Center suspended inpatient operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Patients in recovery come from throughout Southeast Alaska and all over the state, making travel a concern as health restrictions tightened in March.

It took about two weeks to safely discharge the 11 patients they had at the time. Some went to live with family or in shelters, and a few were placed in temporary housing.

“We’re continuing to work with several of those individuals, both in Juneau and out of our region, for that matter, working with other providers for folks who are in temporary housing,” Grigg said.

Even though its doors are closed, Rainforest Recovery Center has expanded virtual services since patients left three weeks ago.

Grigg said the program has historically not had an outpatient program, but they now have 20 people receiving services remotely.

“It was not something we anticipated,” he said. “But we’re grateful that people are reaching out and are coming to us for help. And we’re going to be there for them.”

A cot inside of the Rainforest Recovery Center on April 7 in Juneau. City officials converted the drug and alcohol rehabilitation center into an emergency spillover shelter for COVID-19 patients at Bartlett Regional Hospital. The shelter is designed to house patients who don’t need critical medical care. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

Staff are conducting individual and group sessions with patients over the phone and via Skype and Zoom. And they’re looking for ways to make services accessible to those who may not have access to those technologies.

Grigg said they’re also trying to be flexible to patient’s needs.

“In a normal outpatient setting, we may only see them an hour a week, and in some of these cases we’re spending five to 10 hours a week with folks to make sure they’re OK, they’re sober, their needs are being met,” Grigg said.

The hospital has since converted Rainforest Recovery into an alternate care unit in case of a surge in COVID-19 cases. It has space for up to 35 patients.

 

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