Family First Health

Implementing An Unexpected Approach in the Battle Against Opioid Addiction

What We Did

  • Integrated ourselves into the Center of Excellence team, becoming confidant and advisor.
  • Created an equation for measuring success and built a web application for charting.
  • Documented the development of the model and program, measuring success and creating a guidebook for other community health providers.
The opioid epidemic is a public health crisis that dominates the news. But how many people know that the approach to treating addiction has barely changed in 75 years? We studied what happens when treatment takes place in an entirely different environment—and why it’s so successful.

The Story

Family First Health is a Federally Qualified Health Center headquartered in York, Pennsylvania. They treat patients from underserved communities out of five clinics in the region, and was awarded a grant as a Center of Excellence in the treatment of opioid addiction from the State of Pennsylvania late in 2016. Family First Health engaged Benjamin & Bond to study its care model and produce a guidebook for other community health centers looking to jump into treatment of opioid addiction in a primary care setting. We documented the development of the model and the program over the course of 2017, serving as a partner and sounding board. Data from the first year of the effort has yet to be publicly released, but the program’s results blow away those studied in similar environments.

The Abstinence Model of treatment is so ingrained into the thinking of both the general public and medical world that different approaches have barely been studied. Collecting data on the success or failure of treatment is hard to begin with, because recovery has always been viewed as something that could be “finished.” Moving treatment to an ongoing primary care setting fundamentally changes the game. The first major accomplishment that came of the collaboration between Family First and Benjamin & Bond was a clear definition of patient and program success. From the beginning, Family First Health understood that strict patient sobriety wasn’t necessarily how it was measuring its work, but had trouble articulating an alternative. Benjamin & Bond started the process by holding a “success summit” at its offices involving key program stakeholders and pushed Family First Health to further hone its goals throughout the year.

After we designed success, we had to come up with ways to quantify and substantiate it. To give team members an understanding of a patient’s progress at any moment, Benjamin & Bond created a weighted scoring system for assessing status. We picked the brains of the clinical members of the team and used intense study of available secondary research to create an equation that measured and weighed different factors in a patient’s life to give each a numeric score from 0-to-100. It became apparent that manual calculation of historical scores was going to be extremely impractical, so Benjamin & Bond quickly built a prototype of a web application that allowed Family First team members to enter patient data as quickly and easily as possible.

We also worked with Family First Health’s data team to find the most appropriate method for reporting data so it could be compared to the most frequently cited studies in the space.

Benjamin & Bond met with every employee working in the Center of Excellence at least once a month over the course of the year to understand what they felt was working and not working. We spent time in exam rooms with patients developing rapport to get unfiltered information and observed clinical protocols live in action.

Our work with Family First Health is far from over.

We look forward to publishing the 2017 results early in February, and continue to be involved pro bono in the York Opioid Collaborative and an Access to Care workgroup. The opioid epidemic is a public health crisis, but when organizations like Family First Health and Benjamin & Bond partner together, we can have an impact on even the most intractable problems.

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Our projects run the gamut from quick, continuous improvement efforts to complete redesigns of service lines and operational models. The common theme is a proven, scalable approach to problem solving.