Brian Pierson, the regional director of outreach at Mount Carmel Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, saw an opportunity earlier this year to support medical staff with overdose patients by adding a peer support coach at point-of-care, according to Side Effects, a news collaborative covering public health.
Hospital staff will see the same patients overdosing, but beyond offering them Naloxone, there is not much more they can do if the person does not want to explore their detox suggestions. To put these patients in touch with long-term treatment and link them with other resources, such as housing, Pierson added a community health worker, or peer support coach, named Charles Stewart to his team.
Hospitals are hiring former addicts, like Stewart, to connect patients with the support they need to get overdose patients into long-term treatment, according to Side Effects’ Esther Honig.
The Treatment Suggestion Must Come From the Patient
Trained in peer mentoring, Stewart works with doctors and nurses. He starts a shift in the Mount Carmel West emergency department by reviewing the cases on the floor.
“I get on and look at people’s charts and find out if there are any overdoses or anyone with addiction related services that they need here,” Stewart said, then when he visits patients, he listens to hear if they are thinking about detox.
I don’t want to put any words in their mouths. I don’t want to give them any ideas, I want them to have an idea,” he said.
Presenting Proof Recovery is Possible
Stewart started drinking at a young age, and used a number of drugs, including opiates. Because he has been in recovery, he can act as a liaison between his peers and the healthcare system.
“I’ve lived it, and I know the struggle when I see these people,” he said.
In his first four months, Stewart helped 10 people enter long-term addiction treatment. Pierson credited the early success of the program to the walking, talking proof that recovery is possible.
If I go through treatment I can be successful, I can recover and I can look and sound like [Stewart], who’s standing in front of me now telling his story in a really powerful way,” Pierson said.