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Changing the Culture of Substance Abuse Treatment

Changing the Culture of Substance Abuse Treatment

Treatment for Drug Overdose is Available at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital

If you or someone you love is suffering from substance abuse disorder and want to seek treatment, access to resources are available at Lake Charles Memorial Emergency Room located on the west side of the hospital on Oak Park Blvd. The entrance to the emergency room is located on 2nd Ave.

Louisiana reported one of the highest percentages in overdose deaths in the nation from 2019–2021. As a response, the Louisiana Bridge program, modeled after the California Bridge Program, was formed through a partnership among Lake Charles Memorial Health System, Imperial Calcasieu Human Services Authority, SWLAHEC and the Region V Office of Public Health.

The goal of the program is to disrupt the addiction landscape and develop hospital emergency departments into primary access points for addiction treatment. Implementation will focus on three key areas: providing rapid, evidenced-based treatment for substance use disorder and overdose in the emergency department; navigation for ongoing care; and a culture of harm reduction.

Substance use disorder is a treatable chronic disease, and like other chronic ailments, untreated addiction is life threatening. Through the Louisiana Bridge program, Lake Charles Memorial Hospital is investing significant time and resources into expanding access to treatment for patients who misuse opioids. LCMH is one of two hospitals in the state selected to participate in a technical assistance pilot program.

“We are distributing Narcan to every patient who presents with addiction or overdose signs. At the very least, if they decide not to go into treatment, we can get them to implement some harm-reduction and get them to use less of whatever they are using,” says Jon Gray, MD, Medical Director of Emergency Services.

Rebuilding trust

The success of the program is attributed to placing substance use navigators (affectionately referred to as SUNs), who have a lived experience of addiction, as patient advocates to work with people presenting with substance use disorder. Having gone through a similar experience, SUNs have a passion for helping others into recovery and treatment. With SUNs helping coordinate with the emergency department staff and putting the patients’ goals first, patients are more receptive to seeking out treatment and recovery.

After the initial encounter in the emergency department, SUNs follow their patients’ journeys and assist by finding and connecting them to resources in the community. The navigators are physically located in the emergency department during the day and are available on an on call basis when they cannot physically be stationed there.

In recent decades, society has cultivated a deep mistrust between people who use illicit drugs and medical providers. It is essential to understand that, although individual medical providers may not be responsible for this loss of trust, they carry the burden. Understanding this, the need for intervention by peer navigators has made a difference in the receptivity to treatment.

“What’s most important is that people are receiving access to evidence-based, lifesaving opioid treatment, timely and effectively. Know that if you or a loved one is suffering from an opioid problem, help is available at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital,” says Dr. Gray.

The Louisiana Bridge program renews and strengthens Memorial’s commitment to providing evidence based treatment for addiction.

“We are at a pivotal point in changing the way we think about addiction,” says Lacey Cavanaugh, MD, Medical Director for the Region V Office of Public Health. “Everyone knows the standard order set for something like a heart attack. It’s time we start to think about addiction in this same way. As medical professionals we must ask ourselves, ‘What’s the best way to treat addiction as a medical condition?’”

If you or a loved one struggles with substance use disorder, or to receive more information about the Louisiana Bridge Program, call 337-475-3100. Or go to for more information.