Chiricahua Community Health Centers, Inc Recognized for Expanded Addiction Treatment at Clinton Global Initiative 2023
September 19, 2023 – Chiricahua Community Health Centers, Inc (Chiricahua) was recognized and honored by the Clinton Foundation at the 2023 Clinton Global Initiative as Chiricahua unveiled their commitment to expanding medically assisted treatment (MAT) therapies in Cochise County over the next three years. The need in rural Cochise County is dire and Chiricahua is the only federally qualified health center in Cochise County, AZ caring for more than 31,000 individuals annually. The rural county, which covers 6,200 square miles and shares a 100-mile border with Mexico, is a designated health professional shortage area for medical, dental, and behavioral health providers.
Cochise County witnessed tragic increases in deaths from both drug and alcohol misuse over the last decade. According to the National Opinion Research Center, the drug overdose mortality rates was 36.8 deaths per 100,000 for the United States; 44.7 for Arizona; and 42.1 for Cochise County. The county has been designated as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area by the Office of National Drug Control Policy since 1990. In 2018, the US Department of Health and Human Services rated Cochise County in high need for opioid treatment services, with a low to no capacity to meet patient need. Prior to Chiricahua making it mandatory for all providers to be MAT certified, the number of data waived providers, those who can prescribe medication assisted treatment for opioid use disorders, was as low as eleven in 2018. The number of data waived providers has increased in the subsequent years, but the rates of drug and alcohol-related deaths have outpaced this growth.
Finally, as further evidence of the need for MAT services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data indicated between May 2020 and April 2021, drug overdoses in Arizona, increased 28.5% and nearly doubled over the previous five years. Tragically, Cochise County had Arizona’s largest annual increase in overdose deaths for that period, 65%.
Chiricahua’s commitment to action will reduce the morbidity and mortality of substance use disorders in Cochise County. Using a three phased strategy, Chiricahua will continue to expand medication assisted treatment at clinical sites which will greatly increase the availability of treatment services with the following anticipated strategies and outcomes:
1) Workforce Development – Starting with an internal commitment, Chiricahua has mandated that providers (30+) maintain certification in medication assisted treatment. Chiricahua is keenly aware that there are barriers to adopting MAT protocols from providers and patients so being the change we want to see was paramount to the strategy. Organizational culture, staff perceptions and patient knowledge are the first areas of focus, with peer support specialists working to overcome provider and patient barriers. Evidence-based clinical guidelines and standards of care form the basis of all Chiricahua’s clinical practices. Further training for health providers and staff will be rolled out over the next three years and will include capacity building at every level.
2) Increased Access to Services – In addition to expanded internal service locations, Chiricahua has contracts, referral, business associate, and professional service agreements with three county hospitals, a local medical center, two laboratories, two radiology providers, two obstetrical groups, nine pharmacies, and two translation agencies. Patients are referred for subspecialty services at 13 additional practices. Further, Chiricahua is planning to add a mobile medical clinic that will bring services out to rural communities who lack public transportation access or a nearby clinic.
3) Mitigation of Social Drivers of Health – In connecting patients with a peer support specialist and case manager, Chiricahua will assist with identification of ongoing needs that occur throughout treatment informed by supplemental social determinants of health screenings. This will allow us to connect patients to other needed services offered in the local community that will aid not just the patient, but the family. This will create sustainable and lasting positive change opportunities and impact for each family.
According to Tamika Sullivan, MSW, LCSW, and Director of Behavioral Health at Chiricahua, “We have big plans, but we must start with the vision to save one. The mother is the whole world to her daughter and son, but now those kids are in foster care; that husband is the whole world to his wife, but it’s 2:00 AM and he hasn’t made it home yet; that daughter is the whole world to her mother and father, but they haven’t spoken in years. Our commitment is to save one; one mother, one husband, one daughter. When we do that, we have saved the whole world for someone. And when we reach one today, we change generations to come. “
Tamika continued saying, “…To be here today announcing this commitment hits my heart closely. We loudly proclaim our commitment to do the work to reach one more person today than we did yesterday. We commit to reach one more than the day before that. When we all commit to reaching one, we together change the future for entire generations. That mother’s son and daughter get to return home from foster care. That wife and husband move on to tell others about their success and mentor other husbands and wives struggling with addiction faced by their loved one. And last, those parents get a surprise phone call for lunch and are reunited with their daughter.”
Jonathan Melk, MD, FAAP Chief Executive Officer for Chiricahua said, “We are honored to be recognized by the Clinton Foundation for our work to help the people of Cochise County. We believe that living a rural life should not mean living a shorter life. This new effort we will reach deeper into our community and positively impact families for generations to come.”
About Chiricahua Community Health Centers, Inc.
Chiricahua Community Health Centers, Inc. (CCHCI) is a mission driven Federally Qualified Health Center and a tax exempt not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization. Founded in 1996 as a small, rural health clinic operating in a community center, CCHCI has since grown to become the largest primary care organization in southeastern Arizona, serving more than 31,000 patients annually. CCHCI operates fourteen fixed-site medical clinics, and eight mobile-medical and mobile-dental units, that serve patients throughout the more than 6200 square mile borderlands of Cochise County.