Of all the behavioral health issues that strip a person of their dignity and ability to survive, the scourge of addiction is arguably the worst in terms of the cost to human life and to society. Drug overdoses from opioids (prescription and illicit) have quadrupled since 1999, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
When an overdose occurs, first responders often use the life-saving antidote naloxone (Narcan). Because its effects are quick, however, patients who are revived and transported to a local hospital emergency department are discharged within hours. Many go back to drugs as soon as they leave, driven by the often-brutal withdrawal symptoms that follow opioid overdose revival. To address this health care crisis, Eva’s Village, a comprehensive social-service organization located in Paterson, New Jersey, partnered with St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center to launch the Opioid Overdose Recovery Program (OORP) in 2016.
The state-sponsored OORP was one of the first programs of its kind in the nation to dispatch specially trained Recovery Specialists, who are themselves in recovery from addiction, to the hospital bedsides of overdose victims as they regain consciousness after being revived by Narcan. Because they share the experience of addiction, Recovery Specialists can play a critical role in supporting overdose survivors at the point of crisis and linking them to treatment programs. Once the patient leaves the hospital, Recovery Specialists continue to engage them in a 12-week follow-up period to strengthen the relationship and to advise and educate them about recovery resources.
“The OORP is a crucial link to helping individuals with substance use disorders get the help needed for sustained recovery,” said Heather Thompson, Chief Development Officer for Eva’s Village. “Since April 2016, we’ve received over 500 calls to emergency rooms in all three hospitals in Passaic County, and more than 50% of those patients have entered recovery treatment. Nine additional OORP programs have been implemented in New Jersey with the goal of expanding to every county in the state.”