The Culture Committee is pleased to announce the winners of the “Patients First” contest. 

As a reminder, this past December, the Culture Committee sponsored a contest centered around our first core value, ?Patients First.?  Every team member was encouraged to provide us with their favorite example/story of Patients First.

The Culture Committee  reviewed all submissions and sent their top choices to Greg Marotta and Bob Wilson for their final picks. The winners and their stories/examples are below. 

1st Place (3 way tie): Prize ? iPad

1) Angela Williams, NP, Dayton, OH

Aaron made an appointment as a new patient with my clinic at the beginning of September, but he did not come, even after almost a dozen retention calls. He has been diagnosed with agoraphobia, PTSD, anxiety and depressive disorders. This was going to be so difficult for him to step outside his comfort zone to even show up at an appointment. A friend of his- who is also a patient- also encouraged him to come, but first, Aaron started an email conversation with me with many, many questions. He was so hesitant about even emailing, he said ?I have really bad agoraphobia I’ve been struggling with. Which is why I’ve tried to do as much as I can through email.  I appreciate your time and apologize if I’m taking time away from people in your care already. Thank you so much for your help and time?.   I answered every email back to him, told him that I was more than happy to talk to him and give an overview ofCleanSlate whenever he is ready to learn more.  I emailed him of course, but I also offered to call him or have him just stop by to the clinic if/when he was emotionally able to. I told him that we would love to walk alongside him in his journey. He had tried a program once before and only was there a couple of visits before his panic and agoraphobia set in with feeling treated like ?just another junkie? there. I encouraged him to not let any past views or negative circumstances on medication assisted treatment make him hesitant for getting care- we are different and genuinely care about our patients. I emailed Aaron back and forth for almost a month, many times, before he walked in just to see the office and talk for a moment. Even that was huge for him! When he saw the warm, emotionally safe, beautiful environment of our CleanSlate Center, and when I took the time to speak to him personally, he made an appointment for the very next day. He has only been a patient with us for appx 6 weeks, but we have come so far with him and his recovery. One of the devastating regrets for him that he shared to me at his first appointment was job loss due to him being placed on long term disability due to his mental health diagnosis and substance use. He wanted to provide for him and his wife as she has been the only one working for the past 5 years. He did odd jobs on occasion but nothing that he felt comfortable doing or that was even close to the management position he held for 15 years prior.

This past weekend Aaron emailed me because he was too excited and wanted to share his news before his appointment on Tuesday. He wrote, ?I got the job and am going to working for the first time in 5 years other than hustle jobs like uber or Doordash and a lot of it has to do with your help and I appreciate it very much. None of this would be possible without you guys though.  I owe you my life pretty much.   Thanks so much!? Wow! All the contact, encouragement, communication, cheerleading, whatever you want to call it-was so needed for him and this is so huge for Aaron with all he has been through in the past.

CleanSlate is dedicated to putting patients first- this means to me emailing them when they need support even if my day is busy, answering an email on my time off, encouraging words shared, or a simple ?you can do this?! Keeping the patient informed of what to expect, meeting them where they are no matter what, and walking alongside them is a just small part of what I do as a Nurse Practitioner with CleanSlate.  Aaron is just one of my many patients that I strive to help succeed in whatever they put their mind to and have faith in; I want to be the champion for all my patients in this fight. It has only been a couple of months since our interaction started, and yet he has come so far from where he first was, I can?t wait to see what Aaron can do next and I will continue to always put my patients first.

2) Alisa Scarantino, CM, Scranton, PA (Caitlyn Rivero, CCD of Scranton submitted this story on behalf of Alisa)-

I’m excited to get to share this story. We had a 27 year old male try to schedule an initial visit in Wilkes Barre earlier this week and there was no availability. Our team agreed to add him to our schedule to be seen in Scranton. The MA came to find me when they were taking his vital signs as they were very elevated and the patient was feeling like he was going to pass out. I was training a new provider so I had her go in and evaluate the patient. She found out that he was in active benzodiazepine withdrawal with a history of 7-8 withdrawal seizures in the past. He was able to walk over to our office where we started discussing the possibility of getting him to an inpatient treatment facility for a medically monitored withdrawal or going to the ER.

As my provider was talking with him, he disclosed active suicidal thoughts with a plan to either hang himself or shoot himself in the head. He stated he should have just done it the day prior. He initially was not willing to go to the ER and so I left the office to go discuss a potential 302 with our Center Manager. She came back into the office with me and the provider, had continued the conversation with our patient and he was now agreeable to go to the ER.  He stated his mom was out in the parking lot and he was willing to have her drive him. After some argument on the phone with her, she came in and the CM went to meet her in the waiting room and brought her back to the office.

The provider explained the situation and asked if mom was willing to take him to the ER. Mom stated she guessed she could but it was going to be really tight because she had to meet with her divorce lawyer. She said she thought she could just drop him at the door to the ER though and get to her meeting. She did agree to do this and the CM said she would follow them to the ER and let us know once he was there. Not only did the CM follow them to the ER, but she stayed with this brand new patient of ours in the ER for hours, sitting with him and listening to his story as he shared about his background and lack of support system. The ER took great care of him and the CM shared that this patient of ours, who was only in our office for less than an hour, stated that he had never felt so cared for before. The CM took valuable time out of her incredibly busy day to sit with this brand new patient of ours to show him that he mattered and that we were there for him. Along with keeping people alive, there is no greater end result that I can see to what we are doing in our day-to-day activities.

3) Dayna Akey, MA/MR, Merrillville, IN –

The last few months in our office have been very eventful with loss of staff/low staff. During this period the team has pulled together even stronger to focus on our mission and values. I am so proud to be part of this office. That being said I would love to share a perfect example of putting our patients first above all. 

We recently had a late evening walk in who was rejoining. This patient was originally from Tennessee and has lost insurance and needed guidance here. Though there were many issues to be handled our providers graciously added him to the schedule though it didn’t truly have the space and still took time with the patient to assure all his needs were met. After his appointment he still needed to do paperwork, figure out how to pay for services with no insurance. Find a way home and find a way back to us.

The pt was walked through Navigator and helped with what insurance requirements were here. He also has a learning curve and requires help with paperwork. During his visit I personally sat and reviewed each document needed for him to rejoin program and ensured that he understood what he was singing and helped with all spelling. It was a cold winter evening and the patient was unable to find a ride and was sitting outside coming back in and out. As it was after hours we did not feel right him sitting outside in the cold/dark. The MR and I stayed with the gentleman and called numerous places through insurance to arrange transport to where he was staying as an emergency ride.

The pt was also assisted by more phone calls to transport companies to arrange future rides for his next couple appointments.  The pt has since gone on to have active coverage. He has arrived with transport for both a visit and his meds via southeasttrans which we always continue to arrange with him before he leaves.  We are now going above and beyond to help him find housing and he is staying in a hotel that he can’t afford nor does he feel safe in. I feel as a whole this is the kind of teamwork shown at all times. 

Our center never shies away from me traveling to help our Indiana sites often when they simply don’t have the staff so that our patients are taken care of as they normally would be. We rise to the call when other sites have been overwhelmed with paperwork or scanning to assure that if a call comes in for the patient, be it from a pharmacy or agency these documents are here to ensure the patients get the quickest care possible. 

Everything we do is with the mindset that the patient leaves happy and knows they are safe in our care. 

I know this isn’t solely me and solely one patient. But there are so many stories that we would like to share. But the one particular patient I took pride in because he left saying that this was the most time and effort anyone had put out for him his whole life. And I was happy to sit here with her and fill out forms and make calls so he knew we were part of his road to recovery. I look very forward to seeing his progress through our program. I believe great things are coming for him with our guidance and support. 

2nd Place (2 way tie) Prize – $300 AMEX gift card

1) Veronica Kaiser, CRS, Philadelphia, PA –

Meeting people right where they?re at with warmth, empathy, compassion, and a harm reduction orientation is something I strongly believe helps build the sort of strong rapport that is key to ongoing engagement.  We often see that it is this unique rapport built with patients that keeps them coming back.  While I could come up with many examples of this in action, here is just one:

One patient I worked with (we?ll call her Mary), came into CleanSlate Memphis St, along with her Mom, experiencing excruciating withdrawal symptoms.  As a CRS, I know just how hard it is for patients to stick it out and not leave to go ?get well.?  I sat with Mary for a while and told her everything to expect from her first visit. I reassured her that she?ll be feeling fine in no time and just supported her through what for many of our patients is one of the most difficult experiences of their life.  Thankfully, Mary was able to stick it out and she did wonderfully for 6 months. Around the 6 month mark, I sent Mary a text message telling her, ?Mary I?m so happy to see your success on this journey, from that day you felt so awful to now has been a wonderful experience for me to watch and I?m so happy you realize your worth – you?re an inspiration.?  To me, patients first means that we go the extra mile to show how much we care.  Sometimes that is as simple as sending a random message of encouragement.

Shortly after the 6-month mark, Mary experienced a slip in her recovery.  I later learned that for some reason, Mary felt moved to save that text message I sent her and made sure it appeared as ?unread? so she could have her phone ping her with it occasionally. I am so thrilled to say that Mary had that ping this week and she navigated straight over to us at CleanSlate, where she knew she?d be treated with the same warmth, empathy and compassion she experienced from day one. 

Here is the message she sent me after her rejoin visit this week: ?I was not planning on coming back in and this morning when the text pinged again and I finally actually opened it and read the full message I walked right around with no hesitation: you really help me so much. I am beyond grateful for you and the whole CleanSlate team. But you are just such an amazing inspirational woman and I am so happy I met you.?  Needless to say, I received my Christmas present early this year.  Mary coming back was a gift that was invested in with the patients first approach that makes CleanSlate so special.

2) Nicole Wenrich, CRS, Wilkes-Barre, PA –

Patients first, in my eyes, means going above and beyond. It means meeting people where they are (in all aspects of their life). I don?t just sit in the office and tell them to stay clean or go to a meeting. I offer to go with them. I am constantly thinking of ways to help our patients. I, as well as my co-worker, started the MAT Support Group. This is the FIRST meeting of its kind in our area. We wanted there to be a safe place for our patients to meet. We made it open to the community so that we can help break down the stigma of MAT. This meeting has been going strong for over 2 years. We have a steady stream of patients, patients from other MAT providers in the area, as well as people struggling with addiction that were never on MAT. They all come together for one purpose- TO RECOVER.

I do regular outreach. I make a presence at Ruth?s Place Women?s Shelter, as well as the soup kitchen. I feel that it?s important to make a presence at the places where our patients frequent. I hand out cards and encourage people to pass them along. I?ve helped at least 50 people sign up for treatment. But it does not end there. I will offer to meet them at the assistance office to fill out insurance applications if that is stopping them from entering treatment. I will assist them with getting into a shelter. I will do all of this BEFORE they are even a patient. I don?t just want to hand them a phone number and wish for the best. I want to give them a chance to succeed.

As well as the outreach, I make friends with the agency representatives. I always try to get a contact number. This way, when someone is in need, I know exactly who to call. For instance, I have a patient who was living outside in a tent. I assisted her with getting into the domestic violence shelter. The shelters are no longer allowed to submit the applications for a long term housing program. I made a phone call and secured an interview for her.

I will always take the extra time to assist someone in need. I have sat with people at their home while they are waiting to get picked up for rehab, sat with them in the crisis unit, I?ve met people at housing appts, doctor?s appts, and so on, and I will stop what I am doing to listen to their problems (as well as their accomplishments). I never forget that, as busy as I may be, I might be the only person they have to share their good/bad news with. I get just as excited as the patient when I get to be a part of their success stories. It?s always very humbling when they try to give me all the credit and I have to remind them that, while I was by their side, they did all the footwork.

I have many success stories to share. I will share a story about one of my first patients, Dennis. When I met him, he was living with his nephew. He was unemployed, but took side jobs painting whenever the opportunity arose. He had a hard time finding work, due to a lack of transportation. There was no public transportation in his part of town. He paid rent by giving his nephew all of his food stamps.  While he provided food for the house, he was not allowed to eat any of it. I would pack him a box of food to take home with him after his appointments. He was very depressed. He had no supports, stable housing, barely the basic necessities, and a history of mental health issues and suicide attempts. I answered his calls, helped him get to appts, and was working on stable housing options for him But, he reached his breaking point. I woke up to a long, erratic text.

He told me he wanted to kill himself. I could not get in touch with him and was forced to call 911 to do a wellness check. He ended up reaching out to me. He was in a mental health facility and got approved to stay at a halfway house, the Casey House. He was switched to methadone- as the mental health facility he was in did not offer suboxone. Even though he was not a patient here, we still remained in contact. I dropped off hygiene products and assisted him with employment. He remained in contact for some time and then disappeared. I reached out for months. One day out of the blue, I got a text back. He said he was in a long term mental health facility in Philadelphia. He thanked me for ?caring about him.? That was the last time I heard from him- for close to year.

I saw that he rejoined our program and began working with him again. He was approved for SSI and was living in a sober house in Wilkes Barre. He was already engaged with d&a and mental health counseling. He was living in a sober house. Some of his roommates were using and had been bringing drugs into the house. He told the house manager, but nothing was done. He could not afford to move out. I submitted an application for the OUD grant to assist him with rent for 6 months. He was denied due to past charges. I felt that this man has come so far and deserved a chance- by the time we put the application in and received a denial, he was a monthly patient at our office. I fought for him AND WON. He is now in the process of looking for an apartment. He will receive help with rent for 6 months and will receive brand new furniture delivered to his house. It was a long process to get him where he is now, but I never gave up on him and he continued to trust me. It?s times like this that make me love being a part of this company. I have NEVER been told that I cannot help someone and I love that this company trusts me to ?go with my gut and do what I think is best.? I believe that Cleanslate not only encourages patients first, it encourages PEOPLE FIRST.

3rd Place ? Prize $150 AMEX gift card

Rita Allender, MA/MR Arlington, TX (Precious Washington, MA/MR, Arlington, TX submitted on behalf of Rita) – 

My colleague is an overall amazing person.  There is more than one story of putting patients first, but this probably puts the icing on the cake.  The most recent thing she has done is come up with the Thanksgiving Mini-Feast for the patients. She came up with the idea around the beginning of the month. Her thought behind it was that not every person has a family to celebrate with or even food to put on the table. She wanted to make sure her patients felt cared for and someone had their back. She wanted everyone to get to know each other and share that a lot of the people are going through the same battles and were winning.

We also had a lot of ups and downs as a center and she wanted to thank them all for sticking with us and to let them know they always had a family here, if nowhere else.  She took the initiative to get it catered from a local restaurant and giving us to-do lists to have her vision fulfilled.  She let me know everything that was needed and had the remainder of the staff contribute. When we got our catered order the day before, it was smaller than what we expected. Rita went home and cooked a ham and sides and made sure it was ready for the patients the next morning. On the day of the feast, Rita came in early and started setting up the center with tables and heating up the food. She had at least 15 different types of main dishes and sides ready at the time of opening. She made sure to get to-go plates so they can have food on the go or for the rest of the day. She served every patient as they came in as me and the extern did the check in & did labs. This day, we chose to do our late day. We had at least 40 scheduled patients that came and about the same amount to just come and sit to eat. My colleague stayed on her feet the whole shift, not to mention she was dealing with having half of a root canal done. That shows by itself how dedicated she is to her patients.  

A couple of our last patients were so thankful, they cleaned and broke down everything for us so we can get out on time for the night. They were so appreciative and said they wouldn?t go anywhere else. I can go on and on about that day, but I think you?ve gotten the point.  :]

If you all could see the smiles she puts on all her patients faces. Everyone goes to her for everything. She is like a mama bear or a good sister/best friend to them all. If everyone was like her, the world would be a better place.

Winners should expect to receive their prizes at their local centers in the next few weeks. Thank you to all who participated in this contest. The stories shared truly exemplified our “Patients First” spirit! 








Juliana Dalessandro

Juliana Dalessandro is the Manager of Organizational Culture & Engagement for CleanSlate, a leading national medical group that provides office-based outpatient medication treatment for the chronic disease of addiction, primarily alcohol and opioid use disorders.