Addiction peer recovery coaches return to UVM Medical Center ER

Published: Nov. 10, 2023 at 5:45 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - An addiction treatment program that embedded peer recovery coaches in the UVM Medical Center emergency department is back after an extended pandemic pause, and officials say they have never seen this many people looking for help.

Mishka Lord is a coach with a connection.

“For me, Turning Point has been a, well, Turning Point -- a crossroads, and I chose the right road,” Lord said.

A long road where Lord hopes to make a difference. She’s in recovery herself and helping others to get on the same path as a peer recovery coach. “From the patients that we see in the emergency department, 83% recent of those ask for continued connection with Turning Point. It’s important that we are in the emergency department all the time because patients come in, they get frustrated, scared, and they elope. So, we lose that window of opportunity,” Lord said.

And that window of opportunity, officials say, can be as little as 15 minutes. Turning Point has been working to integrate coaches back in 24/7 for over a year now, and it’s coming together at what feels like a tipping point for the recovery community, as the opioid crisis continues to claim more lives.

“Since 2021, we went from 699 individuals served, all the way until 878 individuals served. We are expecting a 20% increase this year. This doesn’t worry me as it does make me hopeful, knowing that people are finding the help,” said Cam Lauf, the Turning Point Center’s executive director.

Emergency personnel from UVMMC say having peer recovery coaches in the ED can make all the difference. “They are just able to make a connection with these patients, build a rapport and trust. During the pandemic when they were banned from coming into the ED, our enrollment numbers in the program plummeted. Now that we are back up and running full steam... they are really special people,” said Dr. Daniel Wolfson with UVMMC.

After a patient at UVMMC says they want recovery services, peer recovery coaches follow up with the patient for 10 days to give them the support and connections they need.

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