By speaking a common language – addiction – peers are aiding patients with SUD

stock photo: close shot of hands held across a wooden table

Peer recovery specialists at Cape Cod Hospital and Falmouth Hospital in Massachusetts are key motivators in helping patients overcome substance abuse disorders. The premise is that “sometimes the best person to help with a problem is someone who has gone through the same problem themselves.”

“The best analogy is going to a foreign country and trying to speak English, which is what we were doing in the past,” said Nate Rudman, M.D., medical director of the Cape Cod Hospital Emergency Center, in a Cape Cod Health News article. “Now when we have a recovery specialist go in, they speak the language of addiction. They understand all of the nuances. They understand what is going on with the person and what the roadblocks are going to be. They know how to circumvent those roadblocks and convince them treatment is the best thing for them.”

This program first started in the emergency department, where people in long-term recovery for substance abuse disorders were embedded as part of the care teams in the EDs at both Cape Cold Healthcare hospitals. The results were so successful that these services are now offered to patients on the hospitals’ inpatient floors.

The recovery specialists receive ongoing internal training and also practice motivational interviewing, an “empathetic process” that acknowledges how difficult it can be for a person to change a behavior. Peer recovery specialists offer encouragement and enthusiasm over their own recovery and engage patients to motivate them to accept treatment.

Patients who agree to enter treatment are referred to verified treatment centers, where they receive a warm handoff to the next step of medical care and get the recovery specialist’s contact information. Specialists continue to keep in touch with patients after treatment ends. They also follow up with patients who refuse treatment by contacting them several days after first hearing about the program.

Read more about the peer recovery specialist program at Cape Cod Healthcare.

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