Emergency Room Coaches: Valuable Addiction Recovery Partners

DHMC Addiction Recovery Coaches: (back row) Casey, Courtney, Stacey, (front)Angela and Dottie

This past May, of 2018, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) launched an innovative substance abuse recovery assistance program. They now staff Recovery Coaches who come to meet with people in the emergency room who show signs of substance abuse. These coaches help connect individuals and families to various services, assist with paperwork, and offer support for those individuals within community settings. 

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Ashley Greenfield, the Community Health Partnership Coordinator at DHMC, oversees the Recovery Coach program. She only started in July of 2018, but was able to fill me in on some of the history of this program. From January to May of 2017, DHMC ran a pilot of the Recovery Coach program to understand its potential benefits. 

Currently, there are six Recovery Coaches employed by DHMC, and the program sees an average of two individuals per week. The coaches are on call for six-hour shifts between 7pm and 7am and come into the Emergency Department when a provider pages them. A provider will talk to the patient once they are deemed medically ok and offer the services of a Recovery Coach. If the patient refuses, the waiting Coach will then go home; otherwise, the provider will initiate the Coach/patient relationship.

As individual’s lives often change, another aspect of the Recovery Coach program is a 30- and 90-day phone check-up. If a patient refused services in the ER, these phone calls give the patients a second chance to get services or to know that they may reach out for help when they might be ready. 

Recovery Coaches must complete a 40-hour training called the Recovery Coach Academy. The DHMC training model for Recovery Coaches uses the Recovery Coach Academy curriculum initially developed by the Center for Addiction Recovery based in Connecticut and utilized throughout the United States. All the training happens in the community, the latest one was held by The Center for Recovery Resources in Claremont, NH. After the Academy training, DHMC also requires another 16 hours of instruction in ethical considerations for Recovery Coaches. 

Most importantly, Ashley pointed out, aside from finishing the training, when hiring for the program they look for “folks who are willing and open to facilitate different kinds of recovery, whether it’s 12 Step, Smart Recovery, or something else.”

Courtney Vorachak is a Recovery Coach at DHMC though she has worked as a Recovery Coach out in the community for the last three and a half years. Courtney saw the need in her community and attended a training that was offered in the area. She has assisted with paperwork for various agencies, community support, assistance in finding recovery resources and more.

Courtney has a real appreciation for the way the program works at Dartmouth-Hitchcock. She noted, “the biggest part of having the Recovery Coaches in the ER is that people come to the emergency department when they don’t have any other options. The Recovery Coach is great because they can come in and say, ‘this is what can happen, what do you want to do?’” Courtney sees the program as the bridge for individuals or families that are still struggling with addiction into the recovery lifestyle, “another hand to help,” she said.

Ashley pointed to the ability to work at a peer-to-peer level providing assistance as one of the reasons for the success of the program. When people are discharged, they are often left without much help, which is why the Recovery Coach program is incredibly important. Providers also often can’t help these individuals navigate access to various resources, both because of time constraints and knowledge of all the community supports.

Ashley’s favorite part of coordinating the program is two-fold. First, “seeing providers be able to gain a lot of satisfaction out of the program is a really cool experience.” Second, “Recovery Coaches are very much in the mindset that they want to give back and be able to provide these services to people who need them and that’s really cool because they are eager to do the work.”

Recovery Coaches do seem to be eager to do the work. Courtney noted “this is my community, I grew up here, and I still live here, and I really want my community members to thrive. I think being part of the [DHMC] program is an amazing opportunity.” 


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