In his own words, Ray Tamasi, president of Gosnold on Cape Cod, has “a very dissatisfied nature with things.”
The Falmouth, Mass.-based not-for-profit substance abuse and mental illness treatment facility has limited resources to fund research and development, but that doesn’t stop the wheels from turning in Tamasi’s head, as he’s always pondering ways to improve Gosnold’s standard of care.
“I like to go onto the edges of things that aren’t being done,” he says.
Those mental exercises lead to breakthroughs such as Gosnold’s two-pronged Overdose Intervention Program (OIP). Working with 17 local police departments and two area hospitals, Gosnold recovery managers, recovery specialists and interventionists reach out to overdose patients to discuss potential next steps for a possible course of treatment.
By bringing care outside of its four walls and directly to overdose patients—whether it is at their homes or in emergency rooms—Gosnold aims to reduce readmissions to treatment facilities, Tamasi says.
“When you bed people, by definition, they are more advanced in their illness,” Tamasi says. “The likelihood of sustained remission is compromised because they are at more advanced stages. We are trying to get to people earlier.”
The first phase of the Gosnold OIP launched last year after Tamasi participated in an interview with a Boston television station to discuss the opioid crisis. When the segment aired, Tamasi noted that leaders from a local police department also interviewed for the piece had begun sending officers to the homes of people experiencing overdose to discuss treatment options. Sensing it was a situation where Gosnold could be of use, Tamasi made a phone call.
“Police departments knew who the victims were and where they lived. What we brought to the equation was expertise, the ability to engage and connect with folks,” Tamasi says. “We vet recovery specialists to ensure they have the right personality and personal skills. This outreach is a very brief opportunity, so you have to be able to engage quickly, put people at ease and establish trust. Let’s face it, when the individual sees a police officer approaching the door, that doesn’t always trigger, ‘Oh, the policeman is my friend. He’s trying to help me.’ ”
Through its OIP, Gosnold is now working with police departments across southeastern Massachusetts. In 70% of visits over the program’s first year, patients have agreed to try entering treatment.
“Police departments everywhere are beginning to become more sensitive to how individuals who often intersect with the law are suffering with mental illness and addiction,” Tamasi says. “Those conditions are what precipitates some of the activities that result in an arrest. I think it has helped the police to see these individuals who suffer in a different light.
“It’s had the benefit of creating a community partnership across lines that historically have not always worked cooperatively, and I think it has helped the community see the police in a different light as well.”
The success of the partnerships with local law enforcement has led to the second phase in the OIP: a working relationship between Gosnold and South Shore Hospital in Weymouth and Tobey Hospital in Wareham, Mass. Gosnold personnel are embedded in the emergency departments at the two hospitals during peak hours, helping patients that have presented with an opiate overdose or any substance/alcohol-related medical condition. Additional hospitals have expressed an interest in joining the program, Tamasi says.
In the meantime, he will keep brainstorming ways that Gosnold can expand and evolve its offerings.
“Much of my attention is spent in trying to bring behavioral health service into the mainstream of medical care, whether that’s emergency rooms, where we have done work very successfully, or into primary care specialty medical practices,” Tamasi says. “It’s all based on the premise of developing services that reduce the readmission rate for patients who go to rehab and bringing services into the mainstream in a more preventive and early intervention way.
“Conceptually, that’s the way I think about how we might develop services to take care of individuals.”