The Charlestown NEW Health Center has brought on a new Substance Abuse Disorder Services (SUDS) specialist and is looking to help address the crisis in tandem with several other service agencies in the Town.
Norma Repucci, a veteran of SUDS programming, has been hired as the new Charlestown director and is already off the ground and running.
“It is a new position for SUD Services and I’m the new director,” she said recently at their Hayes Square center. “We were awarded a grant to help combat the issue in Charlestown.”
The grant came from the League of Neighborhood Health Centers and General Electric. The NEW Health got awarded in the second cohort of grant recipients, and Repucci was hired in March 2018 to get the program off the ground.
“I had been working for another company for 19 years and knew NEW Health CEO Jim Luisi and I’m on the board of the health center,” said Repucci. “Jim told me they were looking for someone to develop the program. I’m obviously interested in my community and I was really excited because I was also in health management at the other company. This is a director’s position, but it’s also hands-on. I do referrals and see patients and do what’s needed.”
So far, the program has found great success, and the hope is that they can combine with the other health centers in the Town to help more people with substance use disorders.
“In the last two quarters, we’ve grown 30 percent with patients on medication-assisted treatment,” she said. “That doesn’t include SUDS patients. There are another 85 patients in that group. We are open for intakes. A lot of patients don’t know about us – that we’re here on Tufts Street. We’re really trying to do a lot of joint collaboration with other partners like High Street. We’re very excited where this new program is going.”
The SUDS program is already sponsoring regular meetings, and they provide numerous other services and referrals for things like food insecurity and housing. Soon, she said, they hope to open a drop-in center for SUDS patients at Tufts Street.
“We do hope to start opening two afternoons a week for the drop in center,” said Repucci.
The idea is to monitor patients, Repucci said, very carefully and take an active role in their recovery.
“If we’re concerned about a patient, we’ll contact them,” she said. “Just last week, a patient came in and had Fentanyl in their system after a screening and we called to see if they needed support or help. It’s not punitive. It’s about helping them and really seeing they are supported. We want to engage them because every step of the way we want to do no harm.”
The NEW Health Charlestown center is accepting SUDS patients, and appointments can be made by contacting the center on Tufts Street.