Christiana Care Health System is starting a new program to help people find treatment for opioid use disorder. The hospital will offer to send peer mentors to the homes of people who have overdosed on opioids.
The Community Substance Overdose Support program, or Community SOS, will be available to patients treated for an overdose who are not admitted into the hospital. Before the patient is discharged Christiana Care will seek consent to send two trained peer mentors to the patient’s home within 48 hours to discuss immediate addiction treatment options, and offer Narcan training to family members.
Erin Booker is the hospital’s Corporate Director of Behavioral Health. She says the mentors will be former addicts who have gone through treatment themselves.
“We know that people respond better to someone who has been through it—that understands the pain that they’re in. They feel less judged,” said Booker.
This peer mentoring method is modeled after Christiana Care’s nationally recognized addiction treatment program Project Engage.
“So taking it outside of the hospital walls gives us a chance to have them in their community, in their organization where they’re not scared of the judgement,” said Booker.
The hospital is spending $500,000 on a one-year pilot program, which includes support from Project Engage staff and behavioral health experts. The announcement comes a week after the release of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing overdoses more than doubled in New Castle County last year.
County EMS Chief Lawrence Tan says the program could be replicated elsewhere, but is not an immediate fix.
“The reality is this is a growing national public health crisis and as it continues to grow it’s going to get worse before it gets better, but this is going to present an opportunity. It’s a starting point; certainly will benefit some people,” said Tan.
Community SOS is set to begin this fall.