New Program Provides Care for Addicts Beyond Narcan

By Michael Hill

A heroin overdosed woman in West Deptford where police spray Narcan in her nose to revive her. A trip to the ER and then home to her 8-year-old daughter in Gloucester County.

Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato says if this had happened in Ocean or Monmouth county, “If she went to the hospital and there was Narcan and the locks on used there would have been a recovery specialist. They work seven days a week 24 hours a day every single day of the year.”

In Ocean and Monmouth counties, they — law enforcement and the health care industry — just launched the Recovery Coach Program where an addiction recovery specialist goes to the hospital bedside of addicts revived by Narcan, offers them help, sends them to a detox center for 24 to 72 hours and then “navigates” or counsels them for weeks through drug testing and treatment.

“I was hopeful maybe looking into getting twenty-five percent but in the first two weeks so far were some where between seventy-five  to eighty-five percent of the people are going into the program.” Numbers tell me they’re desperate,” Coronato said. When asked what does that tell you he said, “They’re desperate.”

Desperate in a county that has led the state in overdose deaths, led the state in supplying police officers with Narcan and lives saved by Narcan.

“But if we didn’t take it further that would have been a lost opportunity,” Coronato said.

That’s given birth to the state grant-funded Recovery Coach Program. Barnabas Health has partnered with law enforcement, two other health networks and several hospitals in a two-year pilot program to reach addicts at their weakest point and to encourage them to turn their lives around.

“Told by my recovery specialist four broke down and cried,” said Connie Greene the Vice President of Barnabas Health. “This is probably the most exciting service that we’ve ever provided for that population. This is the missing piece.”

“This program is about saving a life. It’s about taking a person with a substance abuse problem and giving them hope taking them at the moment when they are almost at the light, capturing them and bringing them to a place where we can break the cycle of addiction.” Coronato said.

Prosecutor Coronato says there are several gaps and unknowns in the program such as the need for more detox beds and making sure they have the right detox programs to produce successful results — success to be measured in lives at the brink of death to become productive.