LIVINGSTON, NJ — The Livingston Area Chamber of Commerce (LACC) recently hosted a lecture about RWJBarnabas Health’s Substance Abuse Peer Recovery Program with a presentation featuring Nicholas Beam, a program supervisor who is currently in long-term recovery.

During the LACC breakfast, held at Eppes Essen Deli & Restaurant in Livingston, Beam shared information about the program, which began in 2016 when RWJBarnabas received a grant from the New Jersey Department of Human Services, Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

According to Beam, who mentioned that all peer recovery counselors are in recovery themselves, the program is geared toward all forms substance abuse. The program began in 2016, when RWJBarnabas received a grant from the New Jersey Department of Human Services, Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

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The Peer Recovery Program has grown from having only eight “Recovery Specialists” to having 115 specialists are available for consultation in all Saint Barnabas hospitals for people addicted to any substance. According to Beam, specialists approach inpatient individuals with substance use disorders as well as people who are in the emergency room after receiving Narcan.

The specialists are available at the hospital 24 hours a day, seven days each week.

According to Beam, the Peer Recovery Program was involved in 720 interventions in 2016 and conducted 9,062 interventions in 2018. This year, RWJBarnabas projects more than 20,000 interventions.

The four key positions of the Peer Recovery Program as follows:

Recovery Specialists, who are the first point of contact and offer support to patients while they are in the hospital. They are required to be in long-term recovery from substance abuse because, according to Beam, patients who need help breaking their addiction only trust and listen to individuals who have been in their position and have experienced addiction.

Patient Navigators, who are clinically trained and choose the treatment plan appropriate for the patient once the patient agrees to seek treatment.

Case Managers, who conduct a needs assessment to determine what type of care the patient needs and to create a treatment plan. According to Beam, the case manager also liaises with community agencies as well as the Recover Specialist to achieve long-term recovery.

Recovery Support Educators, who are charged with planning, developing, implementing and evaluating the education and training in the program.

Beam also shared some signs of substance abuse that he feels all people should be aware of, such as eating much more or less than usual; spending a lot of time alone, Feeling nervous or cranky/in a bad mood; losing interest in favorite activities; and more.

According to Beam, it can be challenging to convince people with addictions to seek help. However, he said that the Peer Recovery Program has determined that 80 percent of patients will accept intervention when a Recovery Specialists speaks to them because they understand the patient’s condition.

Noting that New Jersey substance abuse death statistics continue to rise, with the number rising from 1,200 in 2012 to 3,200 in 2018, Beam added that drugs are more accessible in areas located near water ports.

“Substance Use Disorder is a Chronic Relapsing Disorder in which people use a drug compulsively despite negative consequences,” said Beam. “The disorder will continue indefinitely without intervention and normally kills the person if not treated.”

Other warnings that Beam shared included that “teens are ordering drugs on the Internet and their parents don’t even know” and that withdrawal is an addicted person’s worst fear because “it’s 100 times worse than a severe flu.”

Peer Recover Program offers “All Recovery Meetings” meaning that addicts, family, friends and others are welcome to attend weekly on Wednesdays from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Fresh City Conference Room at Saint Barnabas Medical Center.

Support Team for Addiction Recovery (STAR), which provides 24-hour recovery support seven days a week, is a community-based recovery program that addresses the following eight dimensions of wellness to improve physical and mental health:

  • Emotional
  • Spiritual
  • Intellectual
  • Physical
  • Environmental­­­­­­­
  • Financial
  • Occupational
  • Social

The program is currently offered in Essex, Hudson and Middlesex counties.

During his presentation, Beam further revealed that alcohol is the number one substance for which interventions are provided.

He noted that different counties exhibit different substance abuse patterns. For instance, in Ocean and Monmouth counties, he said the main demographic is 22-to-36 year olds who abuse prescription drugs more than “street drugs.” In Newark, the age group is 44-to-56 year olds, who predominately use Heroin. Phencyclidine (PCP), also known as Angel Dust, is most prevalent in Jersey City, according to Beam.

Beam also acknowledged the Beam Deliberate Reduction in Opioid Prescription (DROP) task force, whose initiative is to decrease the number of opioid prescriptions given to patients leaving the emergency room. According to Beam, 20 percent of patients leave with an opioid prescription, but RWJBarnabas has decreased its rate of emergency room opioid prescriptions to three percent.

To contact STAR, Email lynn.seaward@rwjbh.org or call 315-759-0428.