ED Peer Support Program Reducing OUD ED Visits, Hospitalizations

NCHA’s Emergency Department Peer Support Program for Improving Response to Opioid Overdose is part of a pilot program to combat the opioid crisis. The program, funded through the NC Department of Health and Human Services, began May of 2018 with six emergency departments selected to participate. The sites are 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 ED has hired two certified peer support specialists (peers) to connect patients presenting with opioid overdose or opioid use disorder (OUD) to treatment, recovery, and harm reduction supports. Peers have been in recovery for three years and have been trained in specific recovery strategies and behaviors by local or statewide peer organizations. The peers engage with patients, offer the hope of recovery, and provide ongoing resources within the patient’s community.

The ED Peer Support program has shown promising early results. The 812 patients served have received more referrals from Aug. 1- Dec. 31, 2018 than they did in the entire year before starting the program (337 versus 292 referrals). ED visits were 75% lower, hospitalizations were 89% lower, and 30-day readmissions were 54% lower for patients of the program in August through December when compared to the year before enrollment.

NCHA was pleased to send grant funded peers from the six participating hospitals to the Recovery Coach Academy training. This week-long training, by Recovery Communities of North Carolina, will strengthen the skills of peers to be able to engage and sustain engagement with patients to help them on their road to recovery. Pictured below is one of the cohorts of peers who completed the training this February and March.

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