For the past 18 months, the state has been steadily increasing the number of available beds for the treatment of opioid addiction.
Despite this, Indiana hospitals and treatment providers were left without a real-time solution to connect individuals seeking treatment to an available bed.
To address this, Dr. Jennifer Walthall, Family and Social Services Administration secretary, and Jim McClelland, director for drug prevention, treatment and enforcement, announced OpenBeds, a software platform that manages health services.
“The medical community has long recognized the need to plan for and triage crises,” said Walthall. He likened mental health crises to a natural disaster: “In order to provide services effectively and efficiently, we need to have a command center.”
OpenBeds and Indiana 211 team up
The new partnership between OpenBeds and Indiana 211 was announced March 15. The program will be funded in the first year at no cost to enrollees using federal 21st Century Cures Act funds.
“OpenBeds will … be able to provide critical information … to manage resources and to share best practices throughout the behavioral health community,” said Steve Carroll, chief business development officer of OpenBeds.
Indiana 211 is a nonprofit organization that provides health care and other resource referrals to those in need. Nishi Rawat, M.D., co-founder and CEO of OpenBeds, said the enterprise fills in critical gaps in care for many aspects in a patient’s life.
“This really feeds into the fact that we know that substance use disorder is not isolated, that it’s embedded in other social needs as well,” she said.
Julie Johns-Cole, state director at Indiana 211 Partnership, said the group that connects Hoosiers with human services providers by dialing 211 is in contact with almost 7,000 agencies that collectively offer more than 59,000 services including employment, housing, transportation and temporary financial or food assistance.
“We knew right from the start that 211 was a perfect fit,” she said. “Not only can we connect individuals to treatment and we can connect them to thousands of services to assist them and their loved ones through this very difficult journey, taking a very holistic approach before, during and after treatment.”
How it helps on the ground
Dr. Krista M. Brucker is an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine. She works clinically at the emergency department at Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Hospital in Indianapolis. Her research focuses on mental health and substance use disorder treatment in the emergency department.
Her current work includes the design and implementation of Project POINT (Planned Outreach, Intervention, Naloxone, and Treatment), which is a collaboration between Indianapolis Emergency Medical Services, the Eskenazi Emergency Department, Midtown Mental Health and IU researchers.
“We basically try to take overdose survivors and link them to treatment services, and this sounds like a relatively straightforward thing to do,” she said. “It turns out to be very complicated.”
Brucker said calls need to be made, emails must be sent and faxes transmitted in pursuit of care for these patients. She said her work on the pilot version of the OpenBeds platform greatly streamlined the process.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if everything we could help you with was all in one place? And we found that instead of … spending literally an hour, hour-and-a-half with each patient … we can do that in just a minute or two just by looking at OpenBeds?” she said. “So, it really in real time saves a lot of time, which means that we can help a lot more people.”
IU Maurer School of Law professor Jody L. Madeira said without a tool such as OpenBeds, patients mostly rely on their own personal networks to find available care.
“It’s kind of like luck of the draw,” she said. “Some people are more tied in than others. … It’s inefficient.”
Madeira said she has seen such wastefulness in her own community.
“You’d be appalled at how problems that can be solved by technology just haven’t been,” she said. “Here in Monroe County we have masters-level counselors sitting in lawn chairs checking people into … 12-step group meetings. And, that is a huge waste of resources.”•