When Jennifer came into the emergency room, she was hurting. What started as a sore spot had become an abscess and then a bacterial infection that would require seven to 10 days of treatment. That was time Jennifer did not have to spend at Dell Seton Medical Center, she thought. She was homeless, and she had been using heroin – that’s how she got the infection, with a needle – and she was now in active withdrawal.
While she was in the ER, Jennifer was seen by a member of the hospital’s “B-Team,” who talked to her about how, once she was admitted, she could be given buprenorphine – a medication, also known as suboxone, that provides relief from the always harrowing and sometimes life-threatening symptoms of opioid withdrawal. She gave Jennifer her card. On that night, though, it wasn’t going to happen – two hours later, Jennifer left the hospital “AMA,” against medical advice, and went back to the streets where a fix could be found.