St. Louis Drug-Overdose Victims to Hear From More Recovering Users

By on October 9, 2018

From St. Louis Public Radio:  A St. Louis-based project that uses former drug users to convince overdose victims in emergency rooms to seek treatment will soon focus on patients who refuse emergency transport.

For two years, the Engaging Patients in Care Coordination project has enlisted peer-recovery coaches from participating treatment centers to area ERs to meet with people who have overdosed on opioids.

Starting this month, the project will send the coaches — themselves in recovery — to meet with overdose victims who refused to go to the ER.

After reviving patients, paramedics will ask them if they would like to meet with peer-recovery coaches the next day. If they agree, a coach will arrive to help them find treatment options.

Using people who are actively in recovery to coax drug users to get help can prove that treatment works, said Wendy Orson, CEO of the Behavioral Health Network of Greater St. Louis. The nonprofit organizes the project, which involves five treatment centers and 14 hospitals.

“The innovative piece of this is rather than using case managers or counselors, we use people with lived experience,” Orson said.

Until now, the project has focused on meeting people in hospital emergency rooms. Within an hour of a patient’s arrival, a recovery coach will arrive and offer a referral to an area addiction-treatment facility.

An overdose can be a turning point for some, said Spring Schmidt, acting co-director of the St. Louis County Health Department.

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