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Peer Support Workers in Emergency Departments: Engaging Individuals Surviving Opioid Overdoses – Qualitative Assessment


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that from 1999 to 2015, the amount of prescription opioids dispensed in the U.S. nearly quadrupled, and the number of drug overdose deaths has never been higher. The majority of these deaths – more than 60% in 2016 – have involved opioids. The current opioid epidemic has awakened communities and stakeholders, calling for innovative approaches to address substance use, misuse, and addiction. Despite the need for prevention, treatment, and recovery services, nearly 80% of individuals with an opioid use disorder do not receive treatment of any type, and only 41.2% of addiction treatment providers offer some type of FDA-approved medication to treat opioid use disorder (OUD). Further, prevention and recovery services are often hard to access or nonexistent. Emergency departments (EDs) have presented an opportunity to increase the provision of addiction-related services, particularly for individuals who have received overdose reversal treatment through the administration of naloxone. Hospitals and EDs are an ideal location to intervene with an individual who has just been revived from an opioid overdose, and immediately connect them with appropriate services and support, including medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Despite this, many EDs do not have the necessary workforce, expertise, or experience to effectively engage with the overdose survivor. Consequently, many individuals are released from care with little or no intervention or leave against medical advice. These instances present numerous missed opportunities, often resulting in a “revolving door,” in which the same individual returns to the ED for repeated overdose reversal treatments. This creates a cycle in which the individual leaves the hospital, returns to use, eventually overdoses, and often dies. Click the link below to continue reading.

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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.

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