Updated: Jul 10, 2019
The efforts of a JPS Health Network social worker have made all the difference for one homeless Fort Worth resident who, until recently, just couldn’t seem to stay out of the hospital.
Eugene Oden, 52, suffers from serious issues including Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Congestive Heart Failure and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He also has a pacemaker to regulate the rhythm of his heart. From the beginning of the year through the middle of April, he visited the JPS Emergency Department 39 times for various maladies. He came to the Emergency Department 65 times in 2018, an average of more than once a week.
Breaking the cycle of expensive Emergency Department visits didn’t happen because of a revolutionary new heart procedure or therapy. It happened because a thoughtful social worker helped Oden get to the root of his problems by leading him into treatment to kick a 40-year drug habit while addressing his behavioral health needs at the same time.
“Around the end of March and the beginning of April, I was able to get Mr. Oden to agree to come talk to me,” said Outpatient Case Management social worker Roberta McKnight-Dupas. “At that time he really opened up and I was able to find out a lot about what was going on with him including substance issues and trauma he suffered that he’s never really had any help with.”
Since the middle of April, Oden hasn’t been back to the Emergency Department -- and he hopes to continue to steer clear of it.
Oden told McKnight-Dupas that a driving force behind his frequent hospital visits was an addiction crack cocaine. It was a dependence that started when he was 13 years old, growing up in Chicago. Ultimately, the drugs cost him his job, his belongings which he sold one by one to feed his habit and, eventually, his apartment. The weight of the problem caused Oden to entertain suicidal thoughts, he said. Often, when life became too much to bear, he’d use the drug which would aggravate his heart problems and put him in the hospital. Other times, Oden would come to JPS – or other area hospitals – just because he was hungry, lonely and he didn’t have anywhere else to go.
“Now that I can look back at it, I think I was crying out for help,” Oden explained of his Emergency Department visits. “I didn’t know it at the time. But I was desperate to find a way out of my situation. I would use drugs because in the moment I wanted to blow up my heart and die. I’d stopped taking all my medications because I didn’t feel like I had anything left to live for. But then I would come to my senses and I was really hoping for a miracle – for someone to save me from this.”
He got that miracle when McKnight-Dupas reached out to him. It was as if someone flipped a switch, according to RN Devon Armstrong, Director of Outpatient Care Management, lighting the path to recovery for the patient.
“Since our intervention, Mr. Oden has not visited the ED since his last discharge on April 18 when we facilitated his admission to rehab,” Armstrong said. “This is a huge win for us -- and for Mr. Oden.”
Armstrong said JPS helped get Oden into the My Health My Resources (MHMR) Crisis Respite Unit which helped him cope with his substance abuse that has been a problem for nearly 40 years. Two weeks ago, Oden was able to get off the streets after nearly four years of being homeless and move into a sober living house. He can stay there as long as he wants, provided that he stays clean.
He’s made it to 90 days sober so far and, because of that, Oden said his vision of the future has become clear again.
“I have a girlfriend that I have met and I’m looking forward to finding and apartment and living a normal live,” Oden said. “I found out the grass was greener on the other side of the fence. I just needed someone to give me a boost over it.”
If you’re having suicidal thoughts or need to talk to a counselor to find relief from addiction, contact JPS Behavioral Health at 817-702-3100 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.