LifeSpring Health Systems
Location: Headquartered in Jeffersonville, Ind.
Target population: Patients in largely rural areas of southern Indiana
Quote: “People are gaining a better understanding that you can’t just address substance use. Trauma has become a priority issue.” - Lauren Perryman, clinical manager, Austin Medical Center
Before 2015, there were no facilities offering care for HIV or hepatitis C in rural Scott County, Ind. That would change shortly after the first of what would be many injection drug users was found by county health officials to have tested positive for HIV. The news made national headlines as a local public health crisis.
LifeSpring Health Systems’ Austin Medical Center was one of the new facilities that grew out of the community partnerships forged in response to the HIV outbreak. As a federally qualified health center (FQHC), “We can accept patients regardless of ability to pay,” says Lauren Perryman, LifeSpring’s clinical manager for the Austin facility.
Perryman emphasizes that the center’s clinical work with patients with substance use disorders is part of a communitywide effort that has grown in Scott County (LifeSpring operates services in a six-county area of southern Indiana). The Austin center shares its building with a needle exchange program, and the opportunity for warm handoffs is significant.
“Even if the individual is not ready [for treatment] right then, our presence together has been beneficial,” says Perryman.
In all, the HIV outbreak in Scott County amounted to more than 200 new cases, and many of these individuals continue to receive services at the Austin center and from other programs in the county. Around 97% of the cases in the Scott County outbreak were traced to injection drug use. It became apparent early on, says Perryman, that LifeSpring would be maintaining a long-term presence in the community with the FQHC.
She describes the site’s clinical approach to substance use treatment as offering the least restrictive, most person-centered care possible. “What do patients need in the least restrictive way to be successful?” she says. Medication-assisted treatment (buprenorphine and injectable naltrexone), peer support and trauma-informed care all have grown in importance in the organization.
Perryman shows the most enthusiasm over the community partnerships that have been built in the county, involving community coalitions and entities such as schools and the justice system. A communitywide effort remains essential, especially to continue to chip away at persistent stigma. Even with the attention that the Scott County outbreak received, some Indiana communities still significantly restrict education efforts around infectious disease risk reduction.
Addiction professionals annually convene at the National Conference on Addiction Disorders to share what’s working: Clinicians hear from thought leaders on delivering treatment, while executives of behavioral healthcare organizations learn how to run more effective, more efficient, and ethically minded businesses.