The process begins with a questionnaire patients take during their annual visit. On the basis of the patient’s response to certain questions, he or she may receive a score that raises a red flag and alerts their primary care doctor to review. The doctor will determine if further conversation with the patient is needed.
In the event there is substance abuse potentially identified, the doctor may then carefully bring up the topic with the patient. For example, if a patient has an issue with nicotine, the doctor will gauge their interest in quitting and offer them the resources available at UF Health. After that, the patient has a chance to speak to either a counselor or a pharmacist to discuss options for addressing concerns. For nicotine users, the four-week smoking cessation class called “BIG STEP” is available.
For more serious issues, such as opioid use disorder, the doctor refers the patient to Michael Sorna Jr., MD, medical director of addiction psychiatry services at UF Health Jacksonville. Sorna works with the patient and creates a medication-assisted treatment plan, which uses a combination of medications alongside counseling or therapy to offer a well-rounded approach to treating opioid use disorders.
One of the main benefits of PANDA is the opportunity for patients to access these resources and programs in-house at UF Health versus going to an outside resource or recovery program.
As the program rolls out to more UF Health primary care locations across Jacksonville, its main goal is not only to help patients struggling with substance abuse get treatment, but to also provide tools and resources patients need to prevent addictions. Additionally, Caperton and Haddad-Lacle hope to increase education and awareness on the topic with primary care providers and the general public.
“If we can catch signs of substance abuse early on and help the patient before addiction takes hold, it will significantly improve their overall quality of life,” said Caperton.
For more information on the PANDA program, contact Melissa Caperton at Melissa.Caperton@jax.ufl.edu.