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Somerville Hospital Launches Opioid Overdose Recovery Program

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Somerset County Prosecutor Michael H. Robertson makes his remarks at Thursday's launch of the Opioid program in Somerville. Credits: Kathleen Roberts/RWJUH/Somerset
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SOMERVILLE, NJ – Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital/Somerset and the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office launched the Opioid Overdose Recovery Program Thursday at the Somerville campus.

 Managed by RWJBarnabas Health’s Institute for Prevention, the OORP’s goal is to provide recovery support services for those individuals reversed from an opioid overdose with Narcan who are treated in the Emergency Department.

In 2016, Narcan, an opiate antidote used to treat narcotic overdose in emergency situations, was administered to 126 individuals brought by ambulance to RWJUH Somerset’s Emergency Department. Through September of this year, there have been 94 cases where Narcan was administered.

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“We are grateful to have RWJBarnabas Health’s Institute for Prevention as part of our team in battling the opioid epidemic,” said Anthony Cava, President of RWJUH Somerset, at the press conference held at the RWJUH Somerset Fuld Auditorium. “Drug addiction is an escalating issue in New Jersey and in Somerset County and we recognize that it is a problem that cannot be fought independently.”

RWJBarnabas Health Institute for Prevention manages the OORP which is currently in 14 hospitals throughout the state. The initiative is funded by a grant administered by the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) within the Department of Human Services, and is the result of the collaborative efforts of the DMHAS, the Department of Children and Families and the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.

“The Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office in its continued effort to combat the opioid/heroin epidemic and in partnership with RWJ-Somerset is proud and excited to introduce the Opioid Overdose Recovery Program,” said Somersep County Prosecutor Michael H. Robertson.

“It is a vital step in the battle to fight addiction and has proven to be extremely effective in areas of New Jersey where it has already been introduced,” he continued. “The recovery specialists who will be serving Somerset County are highly trained and experienced and will be able to provide assistance to those in Somerset County who desperately need help with addiction.

“As prosecutor, I am excited and thankful for their presence here and thank RWJ-Somerset for being at the forefront of this fight and working to help the community of Somerset County,” Robertson added.

RWJBarnabas Health initiated the program in January of 2016 and utilizes trained staff called “recovery specialists” to meet with Narcan-reversed patients in the emergency departments with the goal of engaging them to seek addiction treatment. The recovery specialists sit with patients and serve as advocates for the specialized needs of an individual with a substance use disorder.

Once agreeable to seek treatment, OORP patient navigators step in to provide case management services. These navigators provide assistance for clinical treatment and help patients to navigate through other challenges, such as housing or educational needs. Recovery services through the OORP are provided free of charge to patients.

“Before OORP, many reversed survivors of naloxone were trapped in a cycle of repeated drug use and may not have received the necessary treatment and recovery support services,” said Connie Greene, vice president, RWJBarnabas Health’s Institute for Prevention. “The OORP seeks to change this by helping to link individuals who were reversed from an opioid overdose and admitted to select emergency departments, like RWJUH Somerset, to recovery support services and substance use disorder treatment.”

With the launch of the OORP at RWJUH Somerset, there will be 10 recovery specialists serving Somerset County who will be on call 24/7, ready to be deployed to the hospital within one hour of notification of a patient at RWJUH Somerset who was reversed with Narcan.

“The recovery specialists have a unique relationship with the patients because they have been there themselves – all of our recovery specialists are on their own journey of recovery from substance abuse disorders,” added Greene. “We have spent the past few weeks educating staff in the Emergency Department about the program and we are excited to work with the physicians, nurses, EMTs and law enforcement in tackling this epidemic head-on.”

For further information about the OORP, please call RWJBarnabas Health Institute for Prevention at 732-914-3815.

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