News Release: NCHA Partners with DHHS on Innovation to Address the Opioid Crisis

$1.37 million grant will support pilots at six hospitals across the state

Winston-Salem, NC – May 9, 2018 – Today the North Carolina Healthcare Association (NCHA) and the NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced grant awards to six North Carolina hospitals and health systems as part of a pilot program to combat the opioid crisis facing our state. The awards are part of a $1.37 million grant, funded through DHHS, that will enable participating NC hospitals to embed certified peer support specialists in their emergency departments to connect patients presenting with opioid overdose to treatment, recovery, and harm reduction supports.

NCHA President Steve Lawler announced the grant awards during a news conference at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, home to the model for the pilot project. “North Carolina’s hospitals and health systems are committed to modeling innovative ways to improve the health of all our citizens,” said Lawler. “Wake Forest Baptist has been a leader in demonstrating the success that can be achieved by expanding our traditional ideas of what a care team looks like. We are excited about this new opportunity to spread a promising practice statewide.”

Sites were selected based on applications and include: Carolinas Healthcare System Northeast (part of Atrium Health), Cone Health, Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center, Southeastern Regional Medical Center, UNC Hospital, and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

Each participating facility will receive up to $180,000 in reimbursement for the one-year pilot. Hospitals commit to hire a minimum of two certified peer support specialists, each of whom have been in recovery for at least three years, to act as liaisons between the emergency department and the community.

“Certified peer support specialists are a key resource in turning the tide on the opioid crisis in our state,” said DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, M.D. “Peer support specialists are instrumental in connecting individuals battling the chronic disease of addiction to support services, including treatment and harm reduction.”

Wake Forest Baptist will work with NCHA to provide technical assistance and training for pilot sites. Grant recipients have been notified and will begin implementation immediately.

“Our peer support specialists have really become valuable members of the health care team,” said Julie Ann Freischlag, M.D., CEO of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and Dean of Wake Forest School of Medicine. “Their non-judgmental approach allows them to effectively connect with patients and show that there is hope and opportunity for recovery. They are helping us change many lives here in our community.”



Photo: Emergency physician Dr. Christopher “Crick” Watkins confers with peer support specialists Terry Cox and Bob Richardson at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

Article: “Peer support specialists offer experienced-based help to patients with substance use disorders,” Wake Forest Baptist Healthwire.

b-roll:  Video of peer support specialists at work is available from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.  Please contact Joe McCloskey at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

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