Local organizations partner in battle against opioid epidemic
Tidelands Health is partnering with two local organizations in the fight against the opioid epidemic.
The health system is collaborating on a new program in partnership with Shoreline Behavioral Health Services and the local chapter of Faces and Voices of Recovery, a community group that works to eliminate barriers to recovery from substance-use disorders.
The goal is to save lives by helping individuals interested in recovery connect, and stay connected with, community-based recovery resources. Participants are identified when they come into the emergency department at Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital for treatment.
“We are using the ER visit as an opportunity to help people get on the path to recovery,” said John LaRochelle, vice president of operations at Tidelands Health. “Through this initiative, we are creating a strong continuum of support that starts within the hospital and extends into the community.”
As part of the program, patients arriving in the emergency department for treatment are asked a series of simple questions to help identify those who may have a substance-use disorder. Individuals determined to be dependent on opioids are connected with a hospital-based peer navigator trained by FAVOR and employed by Shoreline Behavioral Health. Many of the navigators are themselves in long-term recovery, allowing them to relate to the patient on a personal level.
Peer navigators encourage the patient to consider recovery and help identify obstacles that may impede the process. Patients can begin receiving medication-assisted treatment at the hospital during their stay.
Within 24 hours of discharge, opioid-dependent patients see a provider in the community for continued medication-assisted treatment. Meanwhile, a Shoreline Behavioral Health case manager connects the patient with counseling and other resources.
If a patient stops showing up for care, the case manager follows up by phone or in person, as appropriate.
“This program helps break down barriers to recovery,” said John Coffin, executive director of Shoreline Behavioral Health. “Patients receive personalized support starting in the emergency department and throughout the recovery process.”
Although targeted toward people with a dependency on opioids, the program will help people dependent on other substances find treatment, as well. Prevention is also a major focus.
Many people exhibit borderline dependency but may not realize their behavior is abnormal, Coffin said. Peer navigators will sit down with those individuals in the hospital to offer intervention, often through education.
“Many people may not realize that they are routinely drinking amounts above medically established high risk guidelines,” Coffin said. “Often, those people will change their behavior when you talk with them about it.”
The most important part of the program is the prompt and continued support that’s offered to patients, said Dr. Victor Archambeau, a Tidelands Health family physician who serves as chair of the local FAVOR chapter. Such an intensive approach gives individuals with an opioid dependency a strong chance at sticking with their recovery.
“Someone struggling with alcohol recovery may battle the disease for five or 10 years before they’re successful,” said Dr. Archambeau, who practices at Tidelands Island Family Care in Pawleys Island. “With opioid abuse, the risk of accidental overdose is so high that many people don’t live that long.”
The program is funded primarily through state grant dollars provided to MUSC and distributed to local partners.