Thrive by IU Health

October 05, 2020

Patients Get Immediate Help for Addiction

IU Health Paoli Hospital

Patients Get Immediate Help for Addiction

Often times, the realization that help is needed comes at a point in a person’s life well after a crisis has reached a deeper phase. A program aiming to bridge that gap is approaching its first-year anniversary in south central Indiana and exceeding expectations.

A virtual addiction recovery coaching program, launched last fall at IU Health Paoli Hospital and other IU Health system facilities, is addressing the challenge. The cutting-edge service provides around-the clock access to peer recovery coaches for emergency room patients needing help with substance-use disorder and addiction related concerns. The virtual service enables access to behavioral health expertise at a critical time for the patient.

Patients are identified through a standard process when they come into IU Health Paoli Emergency Department as someone at high risk for, or struggling with, a substance use disorder. Immediately after registration, ED nurses perform an assessment, screening for alcohol, tobacco and recreational drug use to know what is in the bloodstream of the patient. Should any number of factors trigger a screening, ED personnel begin the connection process of a patient with a recovery coach, who interacts live via video.

“IU Health is one of the first in the country to use telemedicine as far as peer recovery,” says Spencer Medcalf, Lead Peer Recovery Coach with IU Health. “While telemedicine has been increasingly used for such services like stroke care, the immediacy of being able to interject the beginning of a treatment process at this critical juncture has been key to its success.”

Charlene Clark, Manager of Clinical Operations Emergency Department at IU Health Paoli Hospital, explains the kinds of substance use they see most. “While opioid use is one of the bigger issues region wide, here in Orange County, we see a large percentage of methamphetamine cases. It’s second only to alcohol use.”

The use of recovery coaches — IU Health employees in active recovery from addiction — has proven effective in behavioral health treatment. The coaches aren’t meant to take the place of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) sponsors, counselors or accountability partners, but serve as a stepping stone by providing patients with resources to move them toward recovery. So far, the results have surpassed expectations. The program, which launched at IU Health Morgan, Bedford and Bloomington as well as Paoli, recently hit the 500-patient mark system wide.

“It really shows the dedication of our teams working together to make the program a success,” adds Clark.

Support does not end when the patient leaves the hospital. Recovery coaches follow up with individuals within 48 hours of initial contact and continue to provide additional resources as needed. Timely intervention has proven effective with nearly 90 percent of referred patients accepting Peer Recovery Care and over 70 percent receiving successful follow-ups. As a result, the program helps to lead to some type of recovery for about half of all patients.

“We don’t want to miss the opportunity to assist a patient to recovery at a time when they are most receptive to change,” explains Clark.

“I’ve been down this path, been successful and you can too,” encourages Medcalf.

The virtual care recovery coaching program will continue to grow beyond the Emergency Department at Paoli and throughout the IU Health South Central Region. Next steps include integration into inpatient units, direct to consumer and availability in a primary care setting.

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Behavioral Health

Our experts treat addictions, anxiety, mood disorders, trauma, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts and other mental health conditions. We provide a full spectrum of care, including counseling.

Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol use disorder (commonly called alcoholism) makes it difficult to control drinking, despite consequences, and results in withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop drinking.