Chuck Tuttle doesn’t interact directly with patients very often. Yet his impact on care for patients with substance use disorders (SUDs) within Partners HealthCare is, in many instances, life-changing—even life-saving.
As a SUDs Resource Specialist on Partners’ Behavioral Health team through Partners Population Health, Tuttle aligns SUD patients and clinicians with resources throughout Partners and in patients’ communities. He and his colleagues act as a consultative team, engaged on an ad hoc basis by clinicians in care settings looking to better serve patients grappling with substances from alcohol to opioids. For these patients, Tuttle connects the dots to available behavioral health resources, from therapy and community support groups to day programs and residential detox facilities.
A significant part of his job, explains Tuttle, is to help overcome the myriad barriers that so often stand between SUD patients and the help they need. “These cases are so complex, and more often than not, these patients have co-occurring mental health disorders,” he explains. “The most challenging role I play is in trying to get patients to the appropriate resources despite all the factors involved—where they live, their insurance, services they need, and the stigmas that still exist around treatment.”
Indeed, an equally critical piece of Tuttle’s role is to educate the physicians themselves. Though prevalent in the community, SUDs remain less understood than other conditions, with fear and apprehension surrounding their treatment, especially in practices that lack behavioral health resources themselves. Tuttle, who brings 11 years of experience in the substance abuse field to his role, works to train physicians in protocols for these patients. He and colleagues also offer a regular case-review service where primary care practices can present complex cases for real-time feedback. Such services, explains Tuttle, provide an extra dimension to primary care that’s simply not available elsewhere in the community.
“When a patient is affected by a SUD, the first person they’ll most likely see for help is their primary care doctor,” he says. “At that point, the patient is at a pivotal point that others might have to work for years to reach—a crucial crossroads that could change the direction of that patient’s life, for better or worse. I help providers to seize that moment, and help the patient move forward positively.”
More information on the work of Tuttle and other embedded SUD resources can be found here.
Pictured above: Chuck Tuttle, SUDs Resource Specialist