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Life-Saving Treatment Still Going Strong

Friday, April 24, 2020

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“Patients come in here and they say, ‘Thank you for not closing your doors on me.'”

— Cassandra Collins

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed just about everything across the globe. But it hasn’t changed the mission of Central City Concern’s Hooper Detoxification and Stabilization Center.

The center, often called Hooper Detox, remains open 24/7 as the first step in recovery for many individuals seeking safe, compassionate treatment for substance use disorder. In 2019, more than 2,500 people turned to Hooper for care.

For low income or homeless Portlanders, Hooper is often the only option for inpatient withdrawal management and stabilization care.

“They rely on us to be here,” said program coordinator Brian Barnes.

Cassandra Collins, center, with fellow sub-acute technicians Stephen Lawrence and Judy Thompson. Sub-acute technicians have been playing a big role in Hooper’s care for patients during COVID-19. “Everyone’s just pitching in wherever they’re needed,” said program coordinator Brian Barnes.

Hooper’s services include around-the-clock medical, clinical and therapeutic support from a team that includes physicians, nurses, counselors, technicians, peer support specialists and more. Once patients are medically stable, care coordinators work with community partners to help with the transition into long-term care and recovery.

To provide these essential services amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Hooper staff had to make changes to their daily processes to ensure staff and patient safety. The team was determined to find solutions.

“We made it happen,” said Kim White, Milieu Supervisor. “Our hearts are in this work.”

Intake procedures were moved outdoors, many chairs were removed from the formerly bustling lobby and space was increased between patient beds for better physical distancing. Patients now receive their meals in bed, rather than gathering in a shared dining room. Some outpatient services were changed to phone calls instead of in-person appointments. Staff wear protective gear to protect their own health and model safe hygiene practices for patients.

For sub-acute technician Cassandra Collins, who has worked at Hooper for 16 years, observing physical distancing requirements has been difficult.

“I’m a hugger, and I can’t do that now,” she said. “But you know, they can tell you’re smiling even behind the mask. Patients can see it in your eyes.”

Most Hooper staff continue to work on site, as they did before COVID-19.

“We have our own fears and families,” said White. “But patients keep coming in, so we put our own worries aside.”

CCC President and CEO Rachel Solotaroff said she understands employees’ worries. To help protect them while they deliver critical services, she said that CCC’s clinical directors and resource specialists have been able to provide the best possible public health guidance and PPE resources for staff.

“I couldn’t be prouder or more inspired by our Hooper team,” she said. “They have responded and risen to the challenge, again and again, with great heart and great thinking.”

The Hooper team looks forward to returning to normal operations. But they know that their patients need them now.

“Patients come in here and they say, ‘Thank you for not closing your doors on me,’” Collins said.

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