By Stephanie Shapiro
The nurses who lead the First Step Day Program on Meyer 2 understand that treating a patient’s addiction is only part of the journey toward recovery. The 12-year-old program also provides comprehensive health care and psychiatric treatment—a multi-pronged approach rarely found in other day hospital programs.
What sets First Step apart even further is the attention the staff—nurses, therapist, and outreach workers—pays to the needs of patients as they complete the program and transition back into the community. By helping clients procure birth certificates Medicare, food stamps, and other necessities, the nurses go beyond the call of duty to make sure that each patient is discharged with a social safety net.
The team of six has also built a strong relationship with the housing facilities where First Step patients live, often advising dorm supervisors on medical concerns. “It’s not just a 12-hour a day program,” says Debbie Ekonomides, RN, who often takes those late-night calls from dorm supervisors seeking guidance. “We work around the clock.”
To be admitted to First Step, patients, referred by consultation services on all medical floors, must demonstrate motivation for recovery. They typically remain in the program for up to 28 days, but First Step nurses follow up as patients graduate to the Program for Alcoholism and Other Drug Dependencies.
When alumni return for Monday meetings, still clean 18 months out, the First Step team’s 24/7 effort is rewarded. Those visits, says program coordinator Patti Burgee, RNC, CARN, “keep us motivated.”