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Client Returns to San Mateo Medical Center to Thank Staff
Recovery with integrated medication assisted treatment

Article Joseph Gutierez, IMAT Case Manager

During the first six months of 2017, Jorge was a frequent visitor to both the emergency department (ED) at San Mateo Medical Center (SMMC) and psychiatric emergency services (PES). Suffering from severe substance use issues and a history of trauma, he would often come in with a nearly fatal blood alcohol level.

Throughout Jorge’s frequent visits, the attending medical teams consistently offered him the highest levels of support both medically, as well as emotionally. BHRS’s Integrated Medication Assisted Treatment (IMAT) team offered him services on numerous occasions, but each time he turned them away.

“The IMAT team has the opportunity to engage with people at a very vulnerable time in the emergency department,” said IMAT manager Mary Taylor Fullerton. “Quite often they are not ready accept help because change can be so daunting.

We handle rejection well, and as one of our case managers says, ‘we are not in the business of giving up on people,’ so whether it’s the first time, or the fiftieth time we meet someone, we’ll be there when they are ready to make those challenging steps to change their relationship with substances.”

For Jorge, that day came last June, when we met as he recovered from yet another near-death visit to the emergency department. Something about that moment clicked, and Jorge finally decided to accept the medicated assisted treatment services.

Now nearly nine months sober, Jorge recently returned to SMMC on two occasions to thank the dedicated ED and PES teams who saw him through the worst times of his life and never gave up on him.

“My desperation and alcoholism got me here,” Jorge said to an attentive audience of doctors, nurses and medical staff in the nursing station. “I had nowhere else to go besides here. I just wanted to let you guys know that I am grateful. You guys saved my life.”

With a combination of medication and residential treatment, Jorge is thriving in recovery. He was even named president of his recovery house.

It was a heartwarming experience for SMMC staff, who often don’t know what becomes of patients after they leave the medical center. They were able to see just how much of an impact their hard work makes in the lives of these individuals.

“[Jorge's story] really makes me believe in what I do,” said SMMC Vice Chief of Staff Dr. Julie Hersk.

Jorge also credited the IMAT team and medication assisted treatment for his success and wholeheartedly recommended it to the medical team for future patients.

“We rely heavily on the partnership with the SMMC emergency and psychiatric emergency departments, and they deserve to share in the celebration of recovery to see how their tireless efforts helps save and improve lives,” said Mary. “It is a long journey for some, and [Jorge’s story] is certainly an inspiration!”