During National Nursing Week, Beth Israel Lahey Health acknowledges Tewkesbury Nurses for their contributions.

On May 18, 2023, Jennifer Carelli assumed her role as nurse manager at the Tewkesbury Treatment Center in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Carelli’s position was critical because the pandemic dramatically exacerbated an already existing epidemic of substance abuse. The pandemic and society’s response to it have had unintended consequences in the areas of mental health and substance abuse. Job loss, isolation, and loss of loved ones due to the pandemic have led to a surge in drug abuse, including alcohol, opioids, and prescription drugs.

For two-and-a-half years, Carelli has been a nurse manager at the Tewkesbury Treatment Center, which is part of Beth Israel Leihei Health’s Behavioral Services. During this time, she has fostered an environment of growth and education for nurses and nursing students amid labor shortages and a pandemic. Carelli is known for her patient advocacy, effective leadership, and valuable contributions to the program. despite the severity of the substance abuse crisis, Carelli believes that the situation may have improved compared to the pandemic’s peak, but challenges remain enormous.

The Tewkesbury Treatment Center primarily serves clients seeking detoxification from opioid addiction, but there has been a growing number of alcoholic clients and patients with benzodiazepine (benzo) addiction. Benzodiazepines are highly addictive, and their detox process is dangerous. People seeking treatment at the Tewkesbury Treatment Center are usually at their lowest point in life and may struggle to trust others. To earn their trust and make them stay, Carelli and the staff “meet them where they are” when they first arrive at the center.

The center has a total of 42 beds for detoxification, but nurses are often in short supply. The shortage of nurses is due to the pandemic, competitive salaries, and nursing schools that don’t focus as much on substance abuse treatment. Carelli has personal reasons for her involvement in the substance abuse crisis as she has lost friends and close relatives to substance abuse over the past two years.

Although the problem has eased since the pandemic’s peak, Carelli believes that more needs to be done by her and other mental health providers to address the shortage of detox beds and housing for homeless people with substance abuse issues. The Tewkesbury Treatment Center is open to referrals even from hospitals in other areas because several detox centers in Boston have closed. Carelli urges the need for more nurses who are passionate about the field and willing to work with a difficult population.

In the end, Carelli encourages those struggling with addiction not to lose hope and to reach out to family and support systems for help. She believes that sobriety is achievable and that there’s nothing that cannot be regained by being sober.

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