“Thanks so much.  The staff here is absolutely amazing.  Thank you all so much for your service and the help you’ve given me.  This was my first time going through detox and trying to get help.  The staff made it so much better and easier.  I’m truly going to miss everyone because after my stay here, it truly seemed like I was with family.  The counselors and the nurses are all great.  Dr. Kaithi was awesome.  I will miss you all and remember all as I continue my journey to sobriety.”


Medical Detox Unit

UofL Health – Mary & Elizabeth Hospital


April is national Alcohol Awareness Month.  The Medical Detox Unit at UofL Health – Mary & Elizabeth Hospital provides patients a medically supervised detox from substances such as alcohol.  The unit offers group therapies to provide support, and social workers to assist in discharge planning for the next step in sobriety.  What makes the unit unique is that it is totally voluntary and not locked down; it is located within Mary & Elizabeth Hospital just as any other clinical unit would be. Dedicated staff at the unit are devoted to patients and helping them overcome issues associated with substance abuse.

The Medical Detox Unit opened in September 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Though opening during the pandemic was coincidental, Jessica Baird, BSN, RN, CARN, manager of the unit said that they have seen an increase in patients who attribute their substance use issues to fear and isolation brought about by COVID.

“National statistics show that excessive drinking, such as binge drinking, increased by 21% during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Baird.  “It is estimated that this increase will result in 8,000 additional deaths from alcohol-related liver disease over the next several years.”

Baird said that the first step for patients seeking help for alcohol abuse is to have an alcohol screening where a team including a physician, nurse and/or clinician reviews alcohol use with the patient to determine is there is excessive use of alcohol.  Questions asked during the screening include:

  • How much and how often an individual drinks
  • Whether there are any alcohol-related health problems
  • Whether there have been any negative outcomes due to excessive drinking such as loss of a job, relationship problems and/or homelessness

Results of the screening help health care providers determine both the medical and behavioral health support and resources the patient and his/her family will need on the journey to sobriety.

There are several indicators that an individual may have a problem with alcohol.  Some of these include:

  • Drinking that has interfered with work or relationships
  • An attempt to stop or cut back on drinking, but couldn’t
  • Having to drink more alcohol to get the desired effect
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not drinking such as restlessness, nausea, sweating or anxiety

What is the difference between alcohol abuse and alcoholism?

Alcohol abuse is consistent drinking that can lead to destructive behaviors such as loss of job, driving under the influence, or legal problems.  Alcohol abuse can lead to alcoholism if the person is not able to change their behavior.

Alcoholism is a chronic disease with signs that include a strong craving for alcohol, inability to limit or stop drinking, continue to drink even though it has interfered with work and mental and/or physical health.  Alcoholism is a chemical dependency, and it is difficult to change without medical intervention and support.

Alcohol use disorder is a progressive disease that can result in life-threating health conditions.

Chronic drinking on a daily basis can lead to physical dependence to alcohol as well as health complications such as liver disease, high blood pressure, heart disease, chronic pancreatitis, fluid retention and malnutrition.  Left untreated, alcohol use disorder can be a fatal disease.  Approximately, 88,000 deaths occur annually in the United States due to alcohol use disorder – the third leading preventable cause of death in the U.S.

By the time a person reached end-stage alcoholism, excessive drinking has negatively impacted an individual’s relationships, work or school, finances and overall health.  If a person tries to quit drinking on their own during end-stage alcoholism, they may experience severe symptoms of withdrawal including tremors and hallucinations.  One of the most severe consequences of alcohol withdrawal is call delirium tremens (DTs) which if left untreated, can be fatal.

How can someone use the services provided by the Medical Detox Unit?

Anyone interested in receiving help with substance abuse can come to the Mary & Elizabeth Hospital emergency department for an assessment and to discuss various treatment options. The clinical team at the unit is totally dedicated to helping individuals from all ages, backgrounds and socio-economic levels receive the needed help for sobriety.

Since opening, Baird said that the unit has provided help to nearly 1,500 patients seeking treatment for substance use disorders.  Patients have come from throughout Kentucky and even adjoining states.

To learn more about the services provided at the unit at Mary & Elizabeth Hospital, along with the process to be admitted, please call 502-361-6731.

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Jessica Baird, BSN, RN, CARN

Jessica Baird, BSN, RN, CARN has been the nurse manager for the Inpatient Medical Detox unit at Mary & Elizabeth Hospital since the opening in 2020. She has 13 years of experience working in Chemical Dependency and Psychiatric nursing in various leadership roles. Jessica obtained certification as a Certified Addictions Registered Nurse (CARN) in 2014 and is a current member of the IntNSA.

All posts by Jessica Baird, BSN, RN, CARN
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