New initiative targets opioid users at their lowest point – in the E.R.

Grand Strand

A new, innovative program is targeting the opioid crisis in Horry County to encourage recovery and sobriety.

And it’s targeting users at what might be their lowest point – inside of an emergency room.

Shoreline Behavioral Health and Faces and Voices of Recovery (FAVOR) have teamed up with Tidelands Health to place “recovery coaches” inside of Waccamaw Community Hospital. Potential participants are identified as being dependent on opioids or other substances when they visit the emergency room for treatment and paired with a coach.

“We are using the ER visit as an opportunity to help people get on the path to recovery,” John LaRochelle, vice president of operations at Tidelands Health, said. “Through this initiative, we are creating a strong continuum of support that starts within the hospital and extends into the community.”

FAVOR invited News13 for an exclusive look inside its recovery coach training program this spring.

The recovery coach program involves 42 hours of training that encompasses several topics, including understanding recovery, pathways to recovery, ethics, professionalism, stages of change, stages of recovery and positive communication.

It’s also where we met Whitney Roberts. Three years ago, her drug of choice was marijuana and she said she couldn’t live without it.

“I was spiritually and emotionally dead inside,” she said. “When you feel like that, you see no hope.”

Roberts says she was in college when she first started experimenting with the drug and eventually, she said it became “consuming.” She said it affected her health, her work and even her relationships.

Then one day, she woke up and decided she didn’t want to let the drug dictate her life any longer. She approached her family, started a 12-step program, and eventually realized she wanted to help others get out of that “dark place.”

“I’m thankful that I had that ‘ah-hah moment’ to where I stopped and got help,” she told News13’s Meghan Miller. “Because I wouldn’t have anything I have today. I wouldn’t be happy like I am today.”

Now, she’s helping fight Horry County’s drug problem as one of FAVOR’s recovery coaches. All of the coaches are in recovery themselves or a family member of someone with a substance abuse issue, according to coordinators at FAVOR.

“Our place is to help them figure out what they want out of life and what goals they want to achieve,” Roberts explained.

FAVOR’s Dr. Victor Archambeau says the “been there, done that” approach is actually working.

“The approach we’ve always traditionally had hasn’t been that effective,” he admitted. “By having recovery coaches in the emergency departments, they can make that initial contact and form a bond with a person who is struggling with a substance abuse disorder.”

Within 24 hours of a patient’s discharge, Tidelands Health says patients then see a provider in the community for continued medicine-assisted treatment, which is started during their hospital stay. A Shoreline Behavioral Health case manager will then connect the patient with counseling and resources.

“People in recovery are successful and we want to train people to utilize skills, motivational interviewing – and those types of skills to help people recognize their own strengths, positive aspects – what we call ‘recovery capital’ – and help them develop a plan, set goals and work towards those goals,” Archambeau said.

Archambeau says FAVOR has several people that have entered recovery as a result of the program.

“They help restore families. People get back to work. People resume their education. People start to follow their dreams again,” Archambeau said.

But we found out patients aren’t the only ones benefiting from the initiative. Roberts thinks her participation in the program as a recovery coach could help her recovery and prevent a relapse.

“My drug of choice didn’t take me places it takes a lot of people, but I can’t say if I hadn’t stopped, that it wouldn’t have,” she said. “It may have taken me down different paths to harder drugs.”

Both Roberts and Archambeau say even if their efforts help play a small role in fighting the local opioid crisis, it will ultimately mean a better community for you.

“This is everyone’s community,” Archambeau said. “And a recovery-friendly, recovery-supportive community is going to be a happier, healthier community for all.”

Tidelands Health says the program is funded through state grant dollars provided to the Medical University of South Carolina and handed out to local partners.

Click here to learn more about FAVOR.

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