Life-saving Interventions for Overdose Survivors
UM Shore Regional Health (UM SRH) has teamed up with the Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne's and Talbot county health departments, and with first responders in the region, to provide a coordinated intervention for people who may have experienced an opioid drug overdose.
Led by UM SRH Director of Emergency Medicine Walter Atha, MD, and Dorchester County Health Officer Roger Harrell, the Regional Opioid Task Force created a standard intervention that includes:
- Medical evaluation and stabilization; a voluntary behavioral health assessment;
- A standardized educational message and list of resources to assist patients in connecting with appropriate treatment providers;
- Expedited referral to A.F. Whitsitt Center for continued drug treatment and rehabilitation;
- The drug reversal agent naloxone that can counteract the effects of an opioid overdose provided to opioid overdose patients at discharge from the emergency departments; and
- Follow-up contact from peer advocates to support patients in pursuing recovery.
The goal of this intervention program is to offer people abusing opioids an opportunity to reassess their lives and make better choices. A carefully crafted script stresses the need for "treatment now, not later," and front-line staff members are educated on techniques to turn the potential tragedy of overdose into a life-changing moment.
Another aspect of the opioid initiative is the use of peer counselors whose "lived experience" in recovery from substances can have a profound effect on helping others reach out and decide that "today is the day I get help."