North Carolina Emergency Department Peer Support Pilot Project

From 2018-2020, the North Carolina Healthcare Foundation (NCHF) awarded six North Carolina hospitals pilot funding from the NC Department for Health and Human Services Division of Mental Health Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services to embed peer support specialists within their emergency departments. This pilot program aimed to connect patients presenting with opioid overdose or substance use disorder to treatment, recovery, resources, and harm reduction supports.

At the conclusion of the pilot program, peers across sites served a total of 5,213 patients with a substance use disorder (SUD). Peers made a total of 2,182 referrals, which involved discussions of treatment, recovery, and harm reduction supports in the community.  Among patient participants, total ED visits decreased by 40%, hospitalizations decreased by 56%, and 30-day readmissions decreased by 34%. Click here to see the final evaluation report.

In June 2020, NCHF released Building the Case for Emergency Department Peer Support: Implementation Guide.This guide was developed by NCHF and informed by the six participating hospitals. Visit NCHF’s ED Opioid Treatment Pathway to learn more about embedding peer support specialists into the ED. There you can also listen to a recording of a webinar from NCHF providing an overview of the implementation guide.

One of the pilot sites, Southeastern Health in Lumberton (now UNC Health Southeastern), published its experience utilizing ED peer support specialists in the February 2021 issue of Psychiatric Services.

See the event news release here

See photos from the event here

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