Opioid misuse and overdose has been on the rise in New Jersey as well as nationwide. Opioid overdose affects the respiratory system by slowing and then stopping breathing, and Narcan (naloxone), an opioid antagonist, works by blocking the effects of opioids and reversing the overdose. The effects of naloxone are temporary and emergency medical care is needed following administration by first responders. Narcan has been used more than 18,000 times on NJ overdose victims since 2014, but little support is provided post-treatment. Evidence indicates that administering a drug like naloxone to an individual who suffers an opioid overdose is a critical step needed to save a life. However, by itself, it is not nearly enough to accomplish the overarching goal of recovery.From September 1, 2014 to February 28, 2015 there were 2,141 Narcan administrations in New Jersey and NJSAMS data indicated that during that same period, there were only 77 treatment admissions who reported a Narcan administration “in the past 30 days.” This difference 2,064 people demonstrates that very few people who undergo a Narcan reversal access treatment and closing this gap requires effort to outreach to such individuals.
The Opioid Overdose Recovery Program (OORP) utilizes people in long-term recovery from addiction as Recovery Specialists and a Patient Navigator to engage individuals reversed from an opioid overdose, putting an end to the “revolving door” where too many individuals endlessly cycle in and out of emergency departments and never connect to treatment or recovery support services. The Recovery Specialists and Patient Navigator provide non-clinical assistance, recovery supports and appropriate referrals for assessment and substance use disorder treatment to help overdose survivors find recovery and improve their lives. OORP is made possible through a grant from the New Jersey Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) and was modeled after a similar program in Rhode Island called AnchorED that has shown great success.
The Center for Prevention and Counseling is working closely with Newton Medical Center and Newton Police Department to support patients with a Recovery Specialist in the Emergency Department immediately following reversal from an opioid overdose and other drug related crises 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The Recovery Specialists play a critical role in engaging overdose patients, empowering them to make self-determined and self-directed choices about their recovery pathway and providing support in following through. Recovery Specialists maintain contact with individuals for a minimum of eight weeks, providing non-clinical peer support through a recovery coaching model. The Patient Navigator links the patient to treatment and recovery services and facilitates transitions from detox, treatment, aftercare, lending a warm hand-off between providers.