Rapid Access Addiction Clinic at St. Paul’s redefining treatment for problematic substance use

May 17, 2017 | News

The team at the Rapid Access Addiction Clinic at St. Paul's is changing the way an entire patient population receives treatmentThe team at the Rapid Access Addiction Clinic at St. Paul's is changing the way an entire patient population receives treatment

The RAAC represents fast access to care when time is of the essence

Addiction medicine is one of the fastest growing fields of medicine anywhere in the world. Nowhere is that more evident than at St. Paul’s, where the innovative work of substance use experts has the world watching.

One of the newest and most promising movements in the field is found in the very name of a new clinic at St. Paul’s—“rapid access.”

The timing of the new Rapid Access Addiction Clinic (RAAC) couldn’t be better. For patients with substance use disorder, addiction medicine experts were seeing too many obstacles to evidence-based care, too much red tape, resulting in a vulnerable population not getting the care they needed, when they needed it.

Today, as this innovative, patient-focused clinic is showing us, those voices for change were right. Already, rapid access is changing the way an entire patient population is cared for.

Why rapid access is so important

For people with substance use disorders, rapid access to specially trained caregivers and evidence-based treatment is critical because we are often dealing with crisis situations—and the small windows for treatment that can open around them.

A person who has survived an overdose, for example, is more likely to take stock of their life and situation. In other words, if they are going to think about change, it’s going to be now.

Or there’s the “moment of clarity” that can bring a person to a clinic for help—but just as quickly that person may panic, turn around and walk out.

These are the moments when help needs to be there. It is these moments that the Rapid Access Addiction Clinic is built upon.

“Rapid access has always been that big gap in the system,” says RAAC Clinical Nurse Leader, Nancy Chow. “So we are low barrier. Our mandate is to see people as quickly as possible and to make it easy for them to access treatment.”

Windows of opportunity

Nancy Chow speaks to how the “stages of change” are used to assess a person with a substance use disorder, with those stages being pre-contemplative; contemplative; planning; action; maintenance; and relapse.

“When a person is contemplative,” says Nancy, “that is when they are acknowledging there is a problem, they are thinking about needing change, about wanting help, and that window can be small. They may not be in that contemplative stage for long before falling back to pre-contemplative. When that happens, you have missed an opportunity to help.”

For substance misuse patients, rapid access to treatment helps to keep those windows to treatment open wider—and longer.

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