Connecticut Non-profit Expands Program Offering Unique Response to Opioid Crisis

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Connecticut-based Non-profit, CCAR, continues to expand its pioneering Emergency Department Recovery Coach program, beginning service at its 20th hospital last week. The program, started about 2 years ago, is the most comprehensive of its kind nationwide, has data to support its success, and continues to grow.

“Connection is key, it’s the way out of addiction. An individual may not be ready for Recovery when they meet their coach in the ED but if a connection is made then the door is open. An EDRC doesn’t come with a plan for your Recovery, they guide you in developing your own plan that works for you"

Connecticut-based Non-profit, CCAR, continues to expand its pioneering Emergency Department Recovery Coach program, beginning service at its 20th hospital last week. The program, started about 2 years ago, is the most comprehensive of its kind nationwide and it continues to grow.

Emergency Department Recovery Coaches (EDRCs) are skilled, trained professionals who meet with patients admitted to a hospital Emergency Department as a result of an opioid overdose or other drug or alcohol related crisis. The EDRC role is a unique presence in hospital emergency departments. In the past, people who came to the ED for substance related issues would be seen exclusively by nurses, doctors, counselors, or other sorts of professionals with a medical or clinical background. An EDRC is not a clinician or a therapist, but a peer - a peer in pursuing and maintaining Recovery.

Many of CCAR’s coaches’ are in personal Recovery or have firsthand experience with addiction and Recovery. This lived experience, in addition to the battery of trainings that all CCAR coaches receive, enables the coaches to connect with the people they work with on a deep level.

“Connection is key, it’s the way out of addiction” says CCAR Emergency Department Recovery Coach, TJ Aitken. “An individual may not be ready for Recovery when they meet their coach in the ED but if a connection is made then the door is open. An EDRC doesn’t come with a plan for your Recovery, they guide you in developing your own plan that works for you.”

The program has been successful. In a two year period, CCAR’s Emergency Department Recovery Coach program grew from a small group of coaches serving a handful of hospitals to a 17 person team, operating in 20 hospitals across Connecticut. Between March 2017 and February 2019, CCAR EDRC’s responded to 4,517 calls. 92% of those interactions resulted in assertive linkage to care.

While the Emergency Department Recovery Coach program is an invaluable resource for patients who end up working with a coach, medical professionals also appreciate the benefit of having Recovery Coaches working in the ED.
“We have been witnessing the growing opioid epidemic in Connecticut firsthand and knew early on that tackling this ongoing issue was going to take a team approach and require services that expand beyond medical treatment,” said C. Steven Wolf, M.D., Chairman, Emergency Medicine at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford. “The peer connection the coach makes with the patient is extremely important, especially in the initial contact. The coach can help the patient see that recovery is possible since most, if not all, the coaches have had similar experiences. From their initial meeting with our patients to well beyond their time in our hospital, the recovery coaches provide a service that works symbiotically with the work of our medical care team.”

Connecticut has 38 Emergency Departments state wide. Having initiated service at it’s 20th hospital, program leadership is looking toward the future. “Our vision is to have our EDRCs in every Emergency Department in the state, and beyond” says EDRC Program Manager Jennifer Chadukiewicz. “As a woman in long term recovery, I can say that when we are having an addiction emergency, we go to the Emergency Department! In the past, this has not been the best strategy to get our needs met, and it frustrates the medical professionals who were also ill-equipped to help. Now when a person seeking help in their moment of need shows up at the most logical place for an emergency, we will be there.”

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Thomas Russo
CCAR
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