North Suffolk Mental Health Association Partnering with CHA to Fight Opioid Epidemic in Local Cities

February 15, 2018

Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA), an academic community health-system serving Everett and Boston’s metro-north region, is teaming up with the North Suffolk Mental Health Association (NSMHA) to help get individuals struggling with addiction connected to treatment by piloting a new recovery-coach program at CHA Everett Hospital. Two coaches from NSMHA are now available to patients who struggle with addiction or present with mental health issues in the Emergency Department, inpatient psychiatry and CHA’s med-surg units.

The total number of estimated and confirmed opioid-related deaths in Massachusetts, through the first nine months of 2017, was over 1,400 – a 10-percent reduction from the same period in 2016. At the same time, from 2012 – 2016, over 70 people in Everett died from opioid misuse.

The pilot program places recovery coaches in direct contact with patients, on a voluntary basis, following an overdose reversal with naloxone, the lifesaving anti-opioid medication. The aim is to link individuals to treatment and recovery services locally. Other patients may present with medical conditions related to substance use and the recovery coach can use this opportunity to engage the patient in treatment.

“A recovery coach is a person who helps remove personal and environmental obstacles to recovery, noted Kim Hanton, director of addiction services at the North Suffolk Mental Health Association.”

“Coaches serve as personal guides and mentors supporting individual and family recovery where support networks are limited.  NSMHA has incorporated this model throughout the addiction division since 2013.  We are thrilled to partner with CHA sharing each of our expertise to build a continuum of support which begins at the most vulnerable time – entrance into the emergency department”

CHA’s chief of emergency medicine, Benjamin Milligan, MD, and a group of providers in the Emergency Department, including Josh Mularella, DO, Emily Adams, PA, and Christine Trotta, PA, ran the Boston Marathon last year and dollars raised through their efforts helped to fund the pilot initiative.

NSMHA’s recovery coaches are trained and certified professionals who guide or mentor patients seeking recovery support from alcohol and other drug addictions. Recovery coaches do not provide clinical services, instead they offer the critical support or link to the services and resources that a person needs to achieve and sustain recovery.

“We are excited to have recovery coaches embedded at CHA Everett Hospital and believe they will strengthen the hospital’s role as a link in patient’s long-term ‘chain of recovery,’” commented Melisa Lai- Becker, MD, site chief of emergency medicine at CHA Everett Hospital. “The ability to partner a patient immediately with a peer who is able to help them navigate to the next link in the chain is invaluable. We are optimistic that the program will have a lasting impact and we may expand the initiative in the future providing a model for a potential statewide network of peer recovery coaches.”

Immediate support when a crisis occurs is vital for effective engagement in recovery and treatment. When a patient arrives at the CHA Everett Hospital Emergency Department he/she is offered a NSMHA recovery coach during peak hours (Friday, Saturday and Sunday).

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