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Peer Recovery Navigators Help Patients with Substance Use Disorders

Posted on December 10, 2021 in Blog

Fort Sanders Regional buildingFort Sanders Regional Medical Center and Covenant Health have announced a new initiative in collaboration with Knox County Health Department (KCHD) to help individuals struggling with substance use disorders who need emergency care. Since mid-October, two full-time peer recovery navigators from Peninsula, Covenant Health’s behavioral health service line, have been working in the emergency department at Fort Sanders Regional.

In peer recovery programs, a trained professional who has recovered from the experience of addiction is paired with someone who is facing recovery or still in the throes of addiction. The goal of the new initiative is to increase access to care for patients who come to the ED as the result of an overdose or other problems caused by substance dependency.

The initiative is funded by a grant received by KCHD from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of KHCD’s newly formed Substance Misuse Response Division, which includes multiple strategies to address substance misuse in Knox County.

KCHD is working closely with Covenant Health to develop, implement and evaluate the peer recovery navigator program. A full‐time public health nurse educator at KCHD supports the initiative by sharing best practices in overdose prevention and intervention.

Edson Brock, MD, Medical Director of Fort Sanders Regional’s Emergency Department

The peer recovery specialists, Stan Grubb and Tina Wright, work alongside the ED staff at Fort Sanders Regional and director Ed Brock, MD, who was instrumental in planning the program.

“A significant percentage of our patients in the emergency department are dealing with substance-related issues as the primary or secondary cause of their medical conditions,” said Dr. Brock. “This program places specialists in substance misuse treatment and resources directly in our ED. The peer navigators allow us to begin much more complete evaluation and support, and make more appropriate referrals to outpatient resources for these patients.”

Dr. Brock continued, “The resources available are many, but navigating the system can be difficult. So many of our patients drop through the cracks, never actually being able to locate or connect with outpatient resources. This leads to a downward spiral for these patients and repeated visits to emergency departments for intervention and initial treatment. The navigators are able to follow up with patients to ensure they are not having difficulty accessing programs. The benefits for our patients and for the people in our community are tremendous.”

Click here to learn more about the program.