RWJBarnabas Health (RWJBH) announced on Tuesday it committed to reducing the number of opioid prescriptions prescribed by actively participating in the Deliberate Reduction of Opioid Prescriptions (DROP) initiative with 25,380 fewer emergency department patients and 21,116 fewer inpatients receiving an opioid at discharge over the past 18 months.
As of May 2019, only 3.81 percent of patients discharged from RWJBH emergency departments were prescribed opioids compared to the national average of 17 percent. Additionally, RWJBH’s Prescription Monitoring Program links to electronic health records alerting emergency room physicians of patients who have recently received opioid prescriptions at another health facility.
“Prevention is a powerful tool in the fight against substance use disorder,” said Dr. Christopher Freer, RWJBarnabas Health Director of Emergency Services and Co-Chair of the Tackling Addiction Task Force. “By reducing opioid prescriptions across our continuum of care we’re able to educate patients about the risk that opioids present and provide alternative treatment options to ensure that the appropriate level of care is met.”
Soon, RWJBH will begin offering Naloxone, a medication used to counter the effects of opioid overdose, across all of its retail pharmacies without requiring a prescription, thus expanding access to the life-saving medication in the communities it serves.
“We’re looking at tackling addiction from every angle and not just from inside our hospital walls,” said Freer. “There is no one solution to this epidemic which is why we’re taking a multidisciplinary approach to fighting it. Providing Naloxone across our retail pharmacies will increase access to the life-saving medication potentially giving someone an opportunity to receive the help they need to start their road to recovery.”
RWJBH physicians are initiating, stabilizing and re-stabilizing patients through medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which has become the gold standard of substance use disorder care. Buprenorphine, which is used in MAT to help individuals reduce or quit their use of heroin or other opiates, is available for acute opiate withdrawal management. Additionally, all patients who receive Buprenorphine are given a warm hand-off to a peer recovery specialist for appropriate care and follow-up.
RWJBH said that it employs more than 90 Peer Recovery Specialists who are full-time hospital staff and are each in active recovery from substance use disorder themselves, for a minimum of four years or more. The Peer Recovery Specialists draw from their own experiences to support all patients who are in active addiction.
“Our goal is to increase access to education, prevention, treatment and recovery services so that individuals with substance use disorder have both a safe place to go for help and access to critical support services to help them on their path to recovery,” said Jennifer Velez, executive vice president, Community and Behavioral Health, RWJBarnabas Health and Co-Chair of the Tackling Addiction Task Force.
“Our Peer Recovery Specialists are powerful advocates and allies for individuals with substance use disorder. Their own lived experience coupled with their training enables them to meet individuals where they are at and provide a level of understanding and support that has proven to be critical to getting individuals to believe there is hope and to accept help,” said Velez. “The work they do is truly life-saving and makes an incredible difference.”
RWJBH’s peer recovery program provides 24/7 hospital-based recovery support services for all patients who present with substance use disorder. A full continuum of care is provided for individuals who accept help including peer support, clinical navigation and care management which continue in community-based settings.
“Since we began our peer recovery program in January 2016, our Peer Recovery Specialists have connected with over 21,000 patients who identified with a substance use disorder. Over 80 percent of those patients accepted services and 40 percent of patients accepted the next level of care,” Freer said.
“We’ve lost too many lives to this epidemic and the statistics can be daunting,” said Velez. “But we are making progress. We see people every day accepting help and by increasing access to care, more and more are finding their path to recovery. We’re not giving up and they shouldn’t either. We’re here to help them. That’s the message we want to share this Recovery Month – that there is hope and there is help.”
RWJBarnabas Health Institute for Prevention and Recovery also facilitates ALL-Recovery meetings across the system. These meetings are open to anyone in the community who is in active recovery, has a loved one in active recovery, and those who are generally interested in recovery support.
Recovery Month is an annual celebration sponsored each September by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) designed to provide a platform to educate the public on substance abuse and to show that recovery is possible.