Last year, understanding the severity of the opioid epidemic, leaders at Bon Secours St. Francis Health System in Greenville, South Carolina, started looking at programs that were making a difference in people’s lives. They were introduced to a community program called Faces and Voices of Recovery (FAVOR) Greenville.
W. Carson Felkel, MD, lead physician of behavioral health program services; Alex Garvey, PhD, senior vice president of Mission; and Jessica Weingartner, director of Mission, met Rich Jones, CEO/COO of FAVOR, and learned about the important community work that the non-profit organization was doing.
Incorporated in South Carolina in 2004, FAVOR provides intervention and recovery support services to people affected by substance use disorders. The organization’s peer-to-peer recovery program had been achieving good results at a local level, and the Bon Secours team believed that if the efforts were adapted to an acute care setting, then they could assist with maximizing this potential and help even more individuals and families suffering from substance abuse.
Forging a partnership
Dr. Felkel suggested meeting with FAVOR to discuss opportunities, and quickly it became evident that Bon Secours was positioned to help the program flourish. FAVOR had the trained recovery coaches, and Bon Secours could offer a clinical strategy that would allow FAVOR further access to this vulnerable population needing support, as well as serve as a funding source.
The Bon Secours Mission department received a Mission fund grant to help seed this program at both Bon Secours St. Francis hospitals – St. Francis Eastside and St. Francis Downtown. In addition, Dr. Felkel set about gaining acute care access for the program and designed a set of clinical criteria by which physicians and staff became empowered to reach out to the FAVOR recovery coaches. After checking HIPAA regulations and addressing security concerns, it was determined that the most effective way the coaches could communicate with Bon Secours patients was by making the coaches volunteers at both St. Francis Eastside and St. Francis Downtown hospitals.
In July 2018, the emergency department (ED) substance use disorder response program launched, cementing the partnership between FAVOR and Bon Secours St. Francis. Since then, the FAVOR coaches have been providing services to Bon Secours patients in need of addiction recovery support.
When someone enters the ED and a substance use crisis is identified, a FAVOR coach is contacted. The recovery coaches are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and their role is to support patients and coordinate with the medical staff at the hospitals. The coaches encourage patients to follow through on treatment and recovery recommendations, such as attending support meetings at FAVOR, and they continue recovery work with patients and their families. The coaches perform routine check-ins, and the program model emphasizes the importance of the 12-month follow up.
(Important note: All FAVOR staff members have firsthand experience with addiction and have been in recovery for at least two years.)
“When attempting to alter the course of the opioid crisis we all face, it takes a patient-centered, community-based, multidisciplinary team effort to transform care,” says Dr. Felkel. “Utilizing FAVOR’s peer recovery support team provides essential patient engagement, strong social and emotional support, and perhaps most importantly, hope, clearly visible through the incredible peer leader who is well into the health recovery journey.”
The program is impacting and improving lives every day. The recovery coaches have responded to 64 addiction-related crisis situations in the ED and have been able to successfully engage 94% of the patients (60) in recovery support services. These results exceed all expectations, as recovery engagement is nearly non-existent outside of this type of program. Furthermore, 53% of the enrolled patients have remained active with their recovery coach throughout this period, and 35% have been linked to a higher level of treatment and recovery care, such as detox, medication-assisted treatment and rehab.
While the program is designed to respond to all substance use issues, alcohol is the most commonly cited reason for contact (47%), with opioid overdose a close second (38%). The other substances include benzodiazepines and methamphetamine.
“The addition of FAVOR to both of the Bon Secours St. Francis Health System emergency departments has been tremendously well received by providers, and the data clearly demonstrates why this peer recovery support program is a best practice in the treatment of behavioral health conditions,” says Dr. Felkel.
To Dr. Garvey, this is a perfect example of how our Mission department, our behavioral medicine initiative and our community at large can work collaboratively on a solution to help God’s people in need.
“Hope is the central virtue of the reign of God,” says Dr. Garvey. “This theological understanding of hope is what is fundamental to our peer-to-peer interventional program. In this biblical virtue, the community gathers to fulfill God’s promise to care for God’s people.”