As a non-profit dedicated to helping individuals in recovery from substance use disorders, there is always more work that can be done. Sometimes a policy changes, allowing for new opportunity. Other times, a community partner has an idea that requires a feasibility study. For the last two years, Capstone teams have help CODA achieve their goals in both expected and unexpected ways. Liberty Martinez Bird, director of the Opioid Treatment Services, has sponsored several projects over the last few years and shared the value of continuing to have students partner on these projects.
The 2021 capstone team focused on a partnership with Central City Concern to offer finger prick blood tests for Hepatitis C. As a result of this project, 300 patients have been screened, and 15 patients are undergoing treatment for hep C. Furthermore, this process also screens for syphilis, a requirement from the Oregon Health Authority for Opioid Treatment Programs. Because the finger prick test is now available, patients no longer need to schedule their own lab work elsewhere, thus eliminating barriers to care.
In 2022, the capstone team conducted a feasibility study of adding a mobile opioid treatment program. CODA knew this idea would require resources but were uncertain about the structure and costs. The team’s research provided CODA with needed information that will allow them to work toward this in the future. Without the work of the students, this would still be a dream. Now it’s a goal.
Regardless of the project, Liberty spoke about the strengths the students' teams bring to the table. She commented that the capstone teams are like no other students she’s worked with. As working professionals in healthcare completing their graduate work in healthcare administration and management, they bring seasoned skills, new ways of thinking and doing, and fresh lenses to their projects. One student, in learning more about CODA, brought some of his professional knowledge and helped them improve their billing processes to improve reimbursement opportunities and rates. Liberty also values seeing the students become more aware of the regulations and requirements associated with opioid treatment programs. This is something that they will take forward in their careers and this empathy will forever shape their decision making. Both the expected and unexpected results of capstone have been mutually beneficial.
Being a capstone sponsor does take effort. Liberty remembers starting out as a sponsor and wondering how to incorporate yet another weekly meeting. The meetings were “productive, respectful, and helpful. Not burdensome.” She prioritized meetings with the teams and were responsive to their needs. In turn, she noted that the teams kept her informed about their progress and asked good questions, some that helped her think in new ways. Because of this, Liberty shared that while having a capstone team technically added to her workload, “it didn’t feel like work.” She encourages others to consider how students can help you move your dreams and goals toward reality.