Mercer Council’s OORP is working to reduce the number of opiate overdoses in Mercer County by assisting in ending the revolving door of opiate use/misuse. Historically, overdose survivors have been caught in a vicious cycle of substance use, in and out of emergency departments after being given Naloxone (Narcan), an opioid agonist that reverses opioid overdose, without being connected to critical resources that can lead them to recovery. For those who have not overdosed, but are bewildered and paralyzed by the daunting task of navigating the Substance Use Disorder treatment ecosystem, the problem is identical.
Our goal in the OORP Program is to be this critical connection between all those seeking help with Opioids and the appropriate recovery options, including Withdrawal Management, Treatment, Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT) and ongoing Recovery Support. In addition, we seek to meet individuals where they are and connect them to various ancillary services that will help them reach not only their recovery goals, but work towards their goals in various other life areas (i.e. shelter, social services, obtaining ID and other material resources such as food, employment services, .) .
The Program employs Recovery Specialists (RS), Patient Navigators and a Clinical Supervisor
Upon receiving notification through dispatch, the RS will meet the patient at a hospital bedside, or out in the community if they are not hospitalized, to establish a supportive relationship and help motivate them to accept recovery services. Recovery Specialists are uniquely qualified, as they are in their own process of recovery from substance use disorder and understand firsthand about substance related challenges and recovery. The Recovery Specialist’s will support the patient though the first critical 8 weeks of recovery by face to face meetings, telephone calls and continuous encouragement and support.
The OORP’s full time Patient Navigator takes the initial dispatch call, links an RS to the case, and assists in navigating the patient through appropriate treatment, recovery and ancillary services. They also provide case management services in the life domains of housing, finances, healthcare, legal, employment and family needs. Another key facet is collaboration with treatment, withdrawal management, MAT, and harm reduction service providers to ensure the best coordination of care for the individual in need, including post-acute treatment options such as outpatient programs, MAT, sober housing, transportation, and social services as required.
The OORP’s Supervisor is a licensed Clinician who oversees the Recovery Specialists and the Patient Navigator. The supervisor reviews all program data, ensures quality assurance, demonstrates and imparts knowledge of addiction and recovery to the OORP team.
How a Recovery Specialist is deployed
All hospitals in Mercer County participate in the OORP program through their emergency departments, crisis units, or general hospital social work functions (RWJ University Hospital Hamilton, Capital Health Regional Medical Center Trenton, Capital Health Medical Center Hopewell, St. Francis Medical Center) and all use the same protocol for treatment. For clients who are not hospitalized, the option to make direct client call-ins to the OORP Program also exists and is frequently utilized.
Hospital staff typically contact a central dispatch OORP phone number for the Patient Navigator when an individual presents and has experienced opioid overdose or other opioid related challenges. The Patient Navigator contacts the RS that is currently on call. After obtaining consent from the individual, a conversation is initiated by the RS, motivating them to seek treatment, connecting them to resources and providing follow-up support. Prior to COVID-19, all bedsides were conducted in person. However, during COVID-19, bedsides have continued through the use of remote telehealth “bedside” interventions. COVID has also discouraged many potential clients from seeking help at hospitals, so the OORP Program has also forged closer ties to non-hospital facilities such as local shelters, outpatient MAT and harm reduction providers to ensure we have the broadest possible reach for potential OORP clients. OORP will continue these remote bedsides until deemed safe to return to hospitals.
Once assigned to a client, the RS will be available for follow-up assistance for a minimum of 8 weeks to help encourage them through the early stages of recovery and moving toward self-actualization. The Patient Navigator typically extends the RS follow-up period to between 3 and 6 months from the initial bedside to monitor the whole case holistically and completely. Ongoing follow-ups, including family care and recovery support is also offered.