Clipboard: Kitty Dukakis, former patients oppose closure of Faulkner detox unit

Partners HealthCare is planning to close a 15-bed drug and alcohol detoxification unit at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital come April, as the hospital increases outpatient services and shrinks the number of inpatient beds in the program, Globe reporter Patricia Wen reported in Monday’s Globe.

The decision has prompted concern from former patients, who are loyal to the place where they started their recovery, and former Massachusetts first lady Kitty Dukakis has objected to the closure of the unit where a close relative was treated. Wen writes:

“We want to see if we can change their minds,” Dukakis said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles, where she and her husband, former governor Michael Dukakis, are spending the winter.

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In an interview with the Globe, [Partners Chief Executive Dr. Gary] Gottlieb did not answer when asked whether he would reconsider the decision to close the unit. He insisted that the closure of Faulkner’s standalone inpatient detox unit does not in any way suggest that Partners is turning its back on substance-abuse patients.

He said about five of the current 15 detox beds will blend into the regular medical unit, enabling the hospital to offer those patients who have complex medical issues enhanced monitoring services. Other patients now seen in the unit — who typically suffer from opiate addiction — will be treated in a newly created outpatient service and offered treatment with Suboxone, a drug that helps reduce opiate cravings so patients can go through detox in their homes. These changes, he said, show Partners is not shutting down a unit, but “we’re transforming the addiction unit.”

The hospital has asked the state Department of Public Health to waive a public hearing on the issue, though one has been scheduled for Feb. 15, Wen reports.