Bartlett Regional Hospital CEO Chuck Bill talks during the weekly Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheon at Moose Lodge Thursday. (Gregory Philson | Juneau Empire)

Bartlett Regional Hospital CEO Chuck Bill talks during the weekly Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheon at Moose Lodge Thursday. (Gregory Philson | Juneau Empire)

Bartlett Regional CEO discusses state of hospital

Chuck Bill talks Housing First, opioid epidemic, family care

Bartlett Regional Hospital is progressing with more ways to care for its patients.

Bartlett Regional Hospital CEO Chuck Bill explained what the hospital is doing recently during his visit to the Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Moose Lodge Thursday. One topic Bill was excited to talk about is the recent success and impact of the Housing First program. Housing First, a 32-unit building in Lemon Creek geared toward housing homeless alcoholics and inebriates, recently received statistics outlining what the program has accomplished since opening its doors last year.

“I want to give a shout-out to Housing First,” Bill said. “Our emergency room utilization has dropped by 65 percent.”

Bill said the biggest change has been the drop in the sleep-off program.

“It was like a frequent flyer program there,” Bill said. “It has now dropped by 99 percent. One of the residents (at Housing First) was brought to the sleep-off program because they did not know he was a resident there, or it would be better. It has been very impressive.”

Bill also discussed the opioid epidemic. Bill said opioid patients have dropped recently. Bill said in handling various addiction problems, Bartlett has made modifications. Bill said the modifications will allow Rainforest to bring in different substance abuse users in a shorter notice. He added that he would like to have a crisis intervention center implemented in Juneau to alleviate addiction problems. Bill explained that the crisis intervention center would act as a short-term center that would take on people who under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The work down in the center would include substance abuse therapy and a psychiatric evaluation.

“Instead of going to (Rainforest), they can go to the crisis intervention center and get stabilized and then be released back into their home,” Bill said. “It is meant to be a short stay so that they can come down from what they are on and get stabilized. It will keep them in the city instead of having to leave the community for follow-up procedures.”

Bill said remodeling will be key in dealing with problems. He discussed the current remodel of Rainforest that will include a crisis intake center. Through that center, patients can be evaluated and they dispersed to the appropriate level of care. This remodel will also open up a few more beds for alcohol detoxification, Bill said.

The ER in the hospital has recently taken on the opioid problem by institutionalizing a Suboxone replacement therapy, medically-assisted treatment program. Last year, Rainforest Recovery Center began utilizing the program. The program employs the use of a medication called Buprenorphine (the brand name, Suboxone) that helps stabilize brain chemistry as addicts are trying to remain sober. Bartlett is the only emergency room in Alaska that has started to use that program, Bill said.

Despite the decrease in opioid patients, Bill said methamphetamine patients have increased.

“Methamphetamine use has really become an overwhelming problem for us in the emergency room,” Bill said. “It poses some significant problems. They have very erratic behavior and tend to get violent and that is a concern that our staff and others in the emergency room are safe. We have remodeled a couple of the emergency rooms there that can become safe-holding rooms for somebody in that type of a situation.”

Resources for family care, Bill said, are also a concern for the hospital.

The resources that are provided for children and family services are “pretty skinny, compared for the need for them,” Bill said. “It is hard to get the appropriate social worker from the state to take the case on in a timely manner, which allows us to release the patient in a timely manner. We are drastically undersourced.”

• Contact reporter Gregory Philson at or call at 523-2265. Follow him on Twitter at @GTPhilson.

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