Mental Health & Substance Use Disorders: Dr. Julia D’Alo

Fighting the stigma through collaborative care

Mental health and substance use disorders are nationwide problems that have only been exacerbated by COVID-19. This is why Dr. Julia D’Alo’s work bringing together St. Clair Health and Gateway Rehab is changing the way we care for these patients. “There is significant comorbidity with substance use disorders and mental health disorders,” Dr. D’Alo says. “A large percentage of people have these co-occurring diseases which tend to feed one another, making them challenging to treat.” However, the biggest concern when it comes to treatment? A patient’s willingness. “It can take a lot of time to sit down with a patient and have a meaningful conversation about treatment — which can be challenging in a chaotic emergency department,” says Dr. D’Alo. “Partnering with Gateway Rehab gives patients and medical providers options that simply weren’t there before.” As St. Clair Health helps stabilize patients who are in emergency medical distress, Gateway Rehab has Certified Recovery Specialists on site to speak with patients about the care provided by Gateway Rehab. “This collaboration allows the patient to transfer right over to Gateway Rehab’s inpatient or outpatient care after being stabilized at St. Clair Health,” says Dr. D’Alo. “You can get them into treatment at a critical moment rather than risk losing them after discharge.”

“St. Clair Health is uniquely committed to the community — they identified this need and decided to do something about it. And in just three years, we have engaged with over 1,000 patients with 1/3 entering into treatment.”

Certified Recovery Specialists are crucial to this program’s success. Having experienced addiction and being in long-term recovery themselves, they know what these patients are going through. “They come to our patients with compassion and lived experience,” says Dr. D’Alo. “Because of their personal struggles with addiction and training, they have a way of getting through to patients.” Recovery Specialists will act as advocates for patients while in the hospital and keep them engaged in treatment during their hospital stay, medical treatment, and stabilization. “This program is breaking down barriers that historically existed,” says Dr. D’Alo. “It’s sending a message to the community that says you can come to St. Clair and be treated with respect and compassion. We can help you.”

“Everyone knows Jo,” says Dr. D’Alo. “And having a person who is in long-term recovery in the hospital all the time is important for both patients and staff. It reminds them that recovery is a real thing and helps to reduce the stigma of substance use disorders.”

Lead Certified Recovery Specialist, Joette Carroll