Massachusetts public health officials are looking to Rhode Island for some new ideas to combat drug overdose deaths. They're interested in a program that connects emergency room patients with addiction recovery coaches.
The Anchor ED program puts former addicts, called "recovery coaches," who have been trained to help others still struggling, in emergency rooms throughout Rhode Island. It's run by The Providence Center, in concert with the state's behavioral health agency. Massachusetts Bureau of substance abuse services spokeswoman Karen Pressman says her agency is looking for new ways to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis in her state. Rhode Island’s Anchor ED program could fit the bill.
“What we liked about Rhode Island is it looked like you had a system here where recovery coaches are on call, could come, be involved," said Pressman, "that we thought would be something that we might be able to do in our state as well.”
Pressman says Massachusetts must try new ideas like Anchor ED as soon as possible to stem a mounting drug overdose crisis. Nearly a thousand Massachusetts residents died from accidental overdoses in 2014. In Rhode Island, 238 people died from overdoses last year, according to the state health department.
Anchor ED recovery coaches are not yet on call at every hospital in Rhode Island, but The Providence Center would like to make that happen. They're currently on call only on weekends, when the number of patients brought to emergency rooms after an overdose is highest, according to program participants.