ER Effort To Reduce Drug Overdoses Aims To Go Statewide

Pilot Program Started At St. Mary's Hospital Tries To Get Overdose Patients Into Treatment

Michael J. (CC-BY-NC)

A pilot program started in Madison which helps overdose victims get drug treatment after they’re brought to the emergency room hopes to expand statewide.

The ED2Recovery program is designed to give both short- and long-term help to overdose patients: first in the emergency department and later, with addiction counseling and treatment.

“The ways we’ve set up this program, it really is as the ‘connector’ and the referral source into helping people get through (addiction treatment program) wait lists and navigate the maze they need to be able to get through the enter recovery,” said Skye Tikkanen with the Safe Communities Coalition. The group started the ED2Recovery program started last fall.

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The program, which uses peer counselors to persuade overdose patients to get addiction treatment, will expand to as many as 25 sites across the state using $1 million provided by the organization Wisconsin Voices for Recovery.

“The opioid epidemic is only growing in our community. But there are answers,” Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said at a Thursday press conference where the expansion was announced.

He said the program lets the community “come together and focus on this challenge and approach it as what it is, which is a health care challenge, and get people the help they need. And especially doing it with models that include peer support with someone who has been through something many of us have not been through.”

Tikkanen said the inclusion of state-certified peer counselors who were addicts, “really does build our self-worth to know that we have the ability to give back. And it also provides employment for people who may have some criminal background because of their (drug) use.”

Tikkanen, who was addicted to drugs, now serves as Drug Poisoning Prevention Manager at Safe Communities.

The ED2Recovery pilot program has been implemented at St. Mary’s emergency departments in Madison and Sun Prairie. At a forum of community leaders and health officials last month, the director of emergency services at SSM Health-St. Mary’s Hospital, Melissa Fisher, said of the 25 people who went into treatment, a quarter overdosed again and 12 percent were taken to detox.

A new treatment program focusing on pregnant women with drug addictions will start Aug.1 at St. Mary’s High Risk Pregnancy Clinic.