COLORADO SPRINGS — Following up on our story on the new program now in place in the emergency room at UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central that aims to provide volunteer addiction recovery specialists to patients who need them.
Cathy Plush is the executive director of Springs Recovery Connection, a Colorado Springs-based nonprofit that focuses on peer to peer support in addiction recovery. “With our peer model we are able to help an individual that comes into the E.D. and hold their hand. It's a window of opportunity when someone's really hurting, to speak the message and have them hear it from a peer perspective, someone who has possibly been in the hospital bed themselves.”
Springs Recovery Connection is providing the volunteers who have been trained to integrate into the emergency department staff. Plush says, “We have a thirty-two hour basic peer recovery coach training. It's very extensive on motivational interviewing, and it's about helping that person set goals for themselves. Then we also have a sixteen hour emergency department recovery coach training, which is about learning what kind of situations they might find (in the emergency department) and how to help someone in that situation and stay connected with them.”
Because the hospital is a place where people's addiction is often known to medical professionals, now the added help of a volunteer who's an addict in successful recovery themselves can be made at a critical time.
Billie Ratliff, the director of behavioral health for the southern region of UCHealth, explains:
“It's very critical to do an actual warm hand-off, and have an individual that has walked through recovery themselves – and has a lived experience – walk with that person through recovery.”
While the opioid epidemic remains a serious problem, Ratliff says the addictions they see patients battling extend beyond hard drugs. “Let's use alcohol as an example, and if we just discharged someone from the emergency department with a bunch of resource pamphlets in your hand, the likelihood of someone following up with that is much less likely than if a person is sitting by their bed, meeting the person that and can help them connect. They can help them get to important appointments, and get to their outpatient provider and actually get into a program. This is a person who actually knows what it's like to be in recovery, and can give them their own experience.”
Plush says someone who has walked the path of recovery, has a better chance of helping a patient in need of addiction treatment to a successful recovery. “The disease of addiction is about isolation, and we believe that connection is one of the solutions. That's what this program is going to give us, the ability to stay connected with the individual long term.”
And as the volunteers help others and pay it forward, they also help themselves adds Plush. “It's incredibly, incredibly effective. That's what we see with our organization and that's part of what our organization is about, is maintaining sobriety and giving people purpose.”
If you have questions about the programs at http://www.springsrecoveryconnection.org/, feel free to reach out to them online and by phone - 719-465-2295.
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