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Addiction Medicine: Building a Bridge From Rescue to Recovery

News  |  By Debra Shute  
   March 01, 2017

In the hopes of bringing overdose rates down, St. Mary's has launched a program modeled after the Rhode Island–based Providence Center's AnchorED, which deploys "recovery coaches" to the ED to counsel patients treated for opioid overdose and introduce them to resources for addiction recovery. The coaches, all of whom have overcome their own addictions and received special training in counseling, also follow up with patients after meeting in the ED to help them stay engaged in the process.

Similar programs exist or are in development at hospitals in New York, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.

Martin says he hopes to see his hospital's pilot succeed and expand throughout SSM Health and beyond. "We in the ED can get into this cycle in which someone comes in and they have overdosed; we reverse them and watch them for a while, but don't actually know how to break the cycle. That's what this program hopefully will be able to accomplish."

Success key No. 2: Identify funding opportunities
The St. Mary's recovery coach program would not be possible without the organization's partnership with Safe Communities Madison and Dane County, a $7,500 grant from the Wisconsin Medical Society Foundation, and $15,000 from Dane County, Martin says.

He recommends that healthcare systems reach out to their outpatient addiction communities to learn about organizations that may be able to help.

"Often, I think the outpatient and inpatient worlds are kind of operating in isolation, or in parallel. The key is making a bridge through an organization like Safe Communities so you can get people who have real-world experience in the community and are really plugged in," he says.

With the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act in December 2016, which includes $1 billion in state grants over two years to address opioid abuse and addiction, such opportunities may expand.

The appropriation of these funds notwithstanding, addiction medicine is among the most cost-effective services a healthcare organization can provide in an increasingly value-driven environment, says Ciha.

Debra Shute is the Senior Physicians Editor for HealthLeaders Media.

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