An innovative program that uses peer counselors to initiate conversations with hospitalized patients about problematic substance use will be discussed in Washington today within the halls of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).
A team of medical leaders from Christiana Care Health System, Delaware's largest health system, is visiting ONDCP to share details of its Project Engage initiative, in which around one-third of hospital patients who have a conversation with an engagement specialist have ended up following through with a recommended treatment program after discharge. A key component of the initiative, established by former Phoenix House medical director Terry Horton, MD, has involved using peers who have experienced substance use problems (rather than social workers) to establish that one-on-one connection.
Other data from the six-year-old program indicate that it has reduced 30-day hospital readmission rates for patients with substance use problems, and has saved an average of $6,000 for each patient who has met with an engagement specialist.
“That empathy and that support from an engagement specialist is often the pivotal action that can motivate a patient to finally believe they can break free of their addiction, even if they have struggled with it for years or decades,” Horton said in a news release announcing the visit to ONDCP.