According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 115 people in the United States die every day after overdosing on opioids, including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. Maryland is among the five states with the highest rates of opioid-related overdose deaths.
MedStar Health is working to address this trend in the Baltimore region through its Opiate Overdose Survivor’s Outreach Project (OSOP), a new initiative launched in May.
“In a review of overdose deaths in Maryland, we found that one out of seven victims had four or more overdose-related visits to the Emergency department (ED) in the year preceding their death,” says Ryan Moran, director of Community Health for MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital, MedStar Union Memorial Hospital, and MedStar Harbor Hospital. “Our program helps us to identify those high-risk individuals, provide a brief intervention in the ED, and continue to support their recovery out in the community.”
OSOP is an enhancement to a program launched two years ago known as SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment). If a patient screens positive for substance use in the ED, a hospital-based SBIRT peer recovery coach—an individual with personal experience with addiction—engages with that person, providing support and overdose prevention education.
The new initiative expands upon this by offering these individuals services from a community recovery coach who works with them once they leave the hospital, providing links to recovery support services and treatment as requested. The community recovery coaches, also individuals who have a personal experience with addiction, counsel patients one-on-one in community settings for several months to make sure they have the resources and care they need to avoid additional overdoses.
Vicky Stewart, a community recovery coach for both MedStar Good Samaritan and MedStar Union Memorial, feels fortunate to be part of the program. A survivor of seven overdoses—the first when she was 16 years old— she experienced addiction on and off for years until she got the help she needed 11 years ago. Now at the age of 59, she uses her experience to help others by first explaining that she has walked in their shoes. Individuals who agree to participate in the program meet with her regularly, getting the encouragement they need to move forward with their lives. “This disease impacts individuals from all walks of life. Being able to reach down and pull people up is what motivates me. It’s now my purpose in life.”
“Our Community Health Needs Assessments have consistently pointed to the demand for more and better access to behavioral health services. Today, programs like OSOP are critically needed and they can save lives,” Moran notes.
This article appeared in the fall 2018 issue of Destination: Good Health. Read more articles from this issue.