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How Peer Recovery Coaches Save Lives in the Emergency Department


At the Greather Baltimore Medical Center (GBMC), every adult patient who comes through the Emergency Department (ED) is screened for substance use via a series of questions asked by the ED nurse. The questions are about the patient’s drug and/or alcohol use and are standardized for every patient. Our electronic medical record, called “Epic,” calculates a score based upon the responses and, if the score is positive, it will trigger a visual alert to the ED team caring for the patient (a nurse and an ED physician). Epic also triggers a notification to the peer recovery coaches – recovering alcohol or drug users who have been extensively trained by Mosaic Community Services and embedded in the ED – to make them aware that a patient with a positive score is in the ED. A peer recovery coach meets with every patient whose scores are positive and talks with him or her to obtain additional information. They can provide each patient with an early intervention and offer resources as appropriate. The coaches have standardized questions they ask these patients, which are later documented in Epic, so the rest of the care team is able to view the answers and come up with the best treatment plan for that patient. The coaches utilize Epic for follow-up appointments and will continue to meet with and support the patients, even after discharge. If necessary, they will also assist in setting up outpatient treatment and services.


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Funding for this initiative was made possible by grant no. 1H79TI083022 from SAMHSA. The views expressed in written conference materials or publications and by speakers and moderators do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services; nor does mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.