Kelly Vandermark is building a bridge.
After more than a decade working as a Strong Recovery addiction specialist, she's forging a connection with Primary Care aimed at bringing services to people where they are, when they need them.
"It's a different way of approaching substance use disorder and treatment—going to the patient when they're in a crisis so we can catch them during that vulnerable time and link them to treatment," Vandermark says. Her newly created position straddles Strong Recovery and Primary Care in an effort to create a long-term sustainable approach to identifying and treating substance use disorder (SUD).
As a credentialed alcoholism and substance abuse counselor (CASAC), Vandermark has close to 25 years of experience in addiction therapy. She also holds a master's degree in health administration.
Now she is Primary Care's go-to for helping patients with substance use disorders who may need treatment, including medication-assisted therapy (MAT). "I'm here to link them to the help they need," Vandermark says.
She's also leading the way in creating a deployable CASAC unit, "So we can travel throughout the Primary Care network, bringing services to our patients. We will meet them in their doctor's office, assess their needs, and collaborate with their provider to come up with a treatment recommendation so everyone can work as a team," she says.
This connection aims to improve Primary Care patients' access to Strong Recovery's expanded stabilization program, which provides immediate treatment for patients as young as age 14 and can get them started on medication-assisted therapy with buprenorphine. Once stabilized, they are referred back to their primary care provider to continue their treatment, with Vandermark's support as needed.
"There's a misconception that people have to wait to get into treatment, but there is actually access to care the same day—which is key," Vandermark says. "This program offers a great opportunity to access that care and to raise awareness among providers of all the resources we have to help them care for their patients."
And given the network's geographic size, Vandermark is also interested in reaching out to offices beyond Monroe County to understand the resources they have and learn how they can work together to meet their communities' needs. "This is where we really want to develop mobile services, which may include things like telemedicine and providing treatment in rural primary care offices, to address barriers to treatment," she says.
Vandermark is uniquely qualified to launch this new position. With her long-term experience in the field, she brings a wealth of knowledge of all the resources available in Monroe County and beyond.
"It's a really exciting opportunity. I'm not aware of anything else like it on an outpatient basis," she says. "This is just the beginning. We're very much in the developmental stages and I'm excited to play a role in getting it up and running.
"I'm also excited and grateful to have this opportunity to work with Rob Fortuna, Alisa Stetzer and their team in developing best practices for opioid prescribing," Vandermark adds. "This team has welcomed me as a resource in working with the two opioid care managers, Terri Dale and Barb Myers. They assist providers and patients in tapering off of opioids safely and their groundwork has paved the way for my added resources."
"I've only been working with Kelly for the last few months, though in that short time I have come to appreciate her breadth and wealth of information in substance use disorders—assessments and treatment, etc.," says Alisa Stetzer, director of Care Management for Primary Care. "I learn so much each time I meet with her. She is very team-oriented, warm and creative, with a 'can-do' attitude. I've been having a fun time collaborating with her, and look forward to more!"
Vandermark keeps busy on the home front, too. With John, her husband of 25 years, free time is often filled with their kids' sporting events. Patrick, 21, is an aspiring PA studying biology and playing football at St. Lawrence University; Brianna, 19, played travel soccer and is in nursing school at LeMoyne College; and Tyler, 17, plays football for Webster Thomas High School.
The Vandermarks have achieved a level of fame around their Webster neighborhood—thanks to their "celebrity dogs"—two Newfoundlands. At 125 pounds and 150 pounds, you can't miss them!