Expansion of peer recovery program aims to further reduce opioid-related deaths in Horry and Georgetown counties
An innovative peer recovery program at Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital is expanding to help more opioid users connect with treatment and further reduce the number of opioid-related deaths in our region.
Earlier this year, Tidelands Health, Shoreline Behavioral Health Services and the local chapter of Faces and Voices of Recovery joined together on a new program meant to help combat the opioid epidemic.
The goal is to save lives by helping individuals interested in recovery connect, and stay connected with, community-based recovery resources.
After initially focusing on individuals seeking care at the Tidelands Waccamaw emergency department, the program recently expanded and is open to all individuals admitted to the hospital for care. The hope is that the expansion will increase the number of people in treatment and help continue the decline of opioid-related deaths within the region.
Last year, Georgetown and Horry counties experienced reductions in opioid-related deaths of 48 percent and 24 percent, respectively. In contrast, the numbers of opioid-related deaths in South Carolina increased by 21.4 percent.
“By broadening the program, our goal is to continue the positive momentum our region has experienced in the fight against the opioid epidemic,” said John LaRochelle, vice president of operations at Tidelands Health. “Every time we help someone struggling with opioid dependency, we have another chance to save a life.”
As part of the program, patients who come to the Tidelands Waccamaw emergency department or are admitted to the hospital are asked a series of simple questions to help identify those who may have a substance-use disorder. Individuals determined to be dependent 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.
Within 24 hours of discharge, opioid-dependent patients see a provider in the community for medication-assisted treatment. Meanwhile, a Shoreline Behavioral Health case manager connects the patient with counseling and other resources.
If a patient stops participating in care, the case manager follows up by phone or in person, as appropriate.
“The goal of the program is to offer patients personalized support throughout the treatment and recovery process,” said John Coffin, executive director of Shoreline Behavioral Health. “We want to stand with our patients on their recovery journey.”
Although targeted toward people with a dependency on opioids, the program helps people dependent on other substances find treatment, too.
The program also incorporates a strong focus on prevention. Individuals at risk for substance-use disorders are engaged by the hospital-based peer navigators in an effort to help them recognize their risky behaviors and encourage change.
So far, more than 330 lives have been positively impacted by the program.
“Although we’re proud of the program’s results so far, much work remains to be done,” said Dr. Victor Archambeau, a Tidelands Health family physician who serves as chair of the local FAVOR chapter. “The more resources and effort our community puts forth, the more lives we can save.”
The program is funded primarily through federal grant dollars allocated by the state to MUSC Health and distributed to local partners.