By: Sarah Camp

Drug use is at an all-time high in New Jersey, with physicians and drug counselors working hard to lower those numbers, especially in Camden.

Nearly a year ago, Cooper University Hospital, in Camden, N.J. opened a department for addiction medicine to help the community. Dr. Kaitlan Baston, was hired last year to kick-start Cooper’s very own department for addiction medicine, which is new not only to them, but South Jersey.

“It has been exciting, because they had not had an addiction specialist since I got hired,” said Dr. Baston. “So we’ve been building the program from the ground up.”

According to Dr. Baston, there’s anywhere between 20,000 and 30,000 N.J, residents suffering from opioid disorders. Not all of those people reside in Camden, but there’s a large enough amount of people in not only Camden, but the South Jersey area that needs help.

“We work to stabilize patients in the hospital,” said Dr. Baston. “We can help transition them to treatment.”

Since the department for addiction medicine at Cooper is fairly new, they only see about 100 patients and have a waiting list with anywhere between 40-80 people on it at any given time. They have plans to expand, which are easier said than done since they would need a lot more funding for not only space for the patients but doctors to assist them.

“There’s definitely a need for treatment centers,” said Dr. Baston. “There’s many, many more patients who want help than can actually reach treatment.”

The department of addiction medicine is made to better serve the people of Camden, as it is an outpatient based service. Having services that don’t require staying in a facility for weeks or months on end, makes the process of recovery much more normal for patients. They use medication to keep patients sober, working in the same sense as if they were diabetic, In order to remain healthy, they need to keep up with medication.

“We’ve had a lot of successful patients,” said Dr. Baston. “We have a lot of patients in recovery and doing really well because they’re taking their medication every day.”

A majority of the patients they see are mothers who are either pregnant or postpartum. The department offers one-on-one therapy and even family therapy. All of the patients they see are there because they want to be, not because they were forced to see them.

“It’s been really exciting to get up and running and accomplish so much in such a short amount of time,” said Dr. Baston. “We’re continuing to grow.”

With such success in just 10 months, the program can only get better. The issues Camden faces with crime and poverty may not be fixed through this program, but it will help with lowering the deaths due to drug use per year. Doctors like Dr. Baston are working hard to help medicate the population currently struggling with addiction. The unique approach can quite possibly be a better one than the old ways of twelve-step programs.

“Cooper is putting a lot of energy into helping the addiction population,” said Dr. Baston.