New addiction consulting service available for providers

by John Keenan, UNMC public relations | July 01, 2019

Image with caption: From left, VaKara Meyer Karre, M.D., and Alëna Balasanova, M.D.

From left, VaKara Meyer Karre, M.D., and Alëna Balasanova, M.D.

Beginning today, the UNMC Department of Psychiatry will provide a hospital-wide addiction psychiatry consultation liaison service.

The service has been piloted at Nebraska Medicine since February, initially with internal medicine hospitalist teams, and then expanding to family medicine.

The team will be led by Alëna Balasanova, M.D., and VaKara Meyer Karre, M.D., both assistant professors in the UNMC Department of Psychiatry, and will include two medical students and a resident. The team also will add an addiction medicine fellow and a social worker later this year.

"It's a full medical team, and we're here to help primary medical/surgical teams with management of patients with substance use and mental illness," Dr. Balasanova said. "So, for example, a patient gets hospitalized who is intoxicated and suicidal. That is a patient that we're able to come and assess, create a follow-up plan, see if we can intervene with medication, and see if we can intervene with referral for treatment after the hospitalization." The team also would provide comprehensive psychiatric evaluation and safety assessment.

The new team will be in addition to the department's longstanding adult psychiatry consultation service.

"Our team will be available to see patients Monday through Friday, and teams can consult us using our new consult order - 'Inpatient Consult Addiction Psychiatry (age 19 and over) Academic' - for any patients with substance use disorders or related complications. We will also manage any co-occurring psychiatric disorders or related concerns," Dr. Meyer Karre said.

"From everything we've heard, this is a much-needed service," Dr. Balasanova said. "We are excited to offer it."

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