COLORADO SPRINGS — An innovative program that aims to give patients struggling with addiction and substance abuse a meaningful boost toward recovery recently launched in the emergency department at UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central in Colorado Springs.
Billie Ratliff, the director of behavioral health for the southern region of UCHealth, explains: “We are only one of two emergency departments in the state to have received this grant (to start the program), and probably only one or two emergency departments in the state providing such an extensive service to our patients with substance use disorder.”
Cathy Plush is the executive director of Springs Recovery Connection, the Colorado Springs-based nonprofit that trains the volunteer recovery support specialists who will be staffing thisnew program at Memorial Central. The volunteers are people in long-term recovery themselves, so the shared experience and guidance they can provide can be powerful for someone in crisis. Volunteers will visit with and provide support to any patient seeking help.
Plush says, “The power of the peer is sharing that lived experience that, ‘I've been there, I've done what you did, or I have done worse than what you've done, and then look at me. I'm recovered, and you can get well and move on from this too.’ I think it offers hope and I think that's often all people need – is a spark of hope.”
Addiction and substance abuse is an issue commonly seen in the emergency department at Memorial Central and other emergency departments across the state and nation.
Ratliff says it’s a problem that locally is likely larger than most people might assume. “It's a very large problem in our county, and I would include Teller County in that. We are the busiest emergency department in the state, and the population for behavioral health crisis – as well as substance use disorder -- is very large in the population that we see. It's much more pervasive than probably most of the community knows.”
The power of a peer is now another layer of care available to patients in addiction crisis in Colorado Springs. It’s a layer of care that UCHealth feels is critical.
Ratliff says, “It's a holistic approach to physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being for our patients.”
In our next story we'll learn more about the recovery support specialists volunteering from Springs Recovery Connection, and the training needed for them to be working in the emergency department at Memorial, and how this resource is being presented to patients in need.
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