The Northeast Georgia Health System announced the launch of a new recovery program for opioid overdose victims at an event Wednesday at the Gainesville campus of the Northeast Georgia Medical Center.
The program is called Northeast Georgia Community Connections and was started by collaboration between the NGHS and the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse that officials say began a year ago. Chairwoman of the GCSA Neil Campbell said it will offer help to those who make trips to the emergency room as the result of an opioid overdose.
"We came to them (the NGHS) and started having conversations about what would happen if we put someone in recovery in the emergency room for people who experience overdose," Campbell said. "There are some programs where we have peers, like certified peer specialists, for mental health that go into emergency rooms, but this is the first one that's specifically for overdoses in the ER."
She said the program will follow up with patients after they leave the emergency room to offer connections to local addiction recovery efforts.
The program started operation on Monday according to Campbell and NGHS officials. Deborah Bailey, the executive director of governmental affairs for the health system, said the peer specialists did not begin interacting with patients, however, until the next day.
"We allowed them time for onboarding, so we didn't actually deal with patients the very first day. We started our patients on Monday, yesterday (Tuesday) we saw five overdoses," Bailey said. "Which is pretty frightening if you think about it."
Campbell and NGHS Director and CEO Carol Burrell briefly addressed a crowd of health system staff, GCSA members and some Georgia state legislature before speaking to attendees at a reception held in one of the hospital's conference rooms. Campbell said the new program is one she would like to see taken to other parts of the state, but she said that could be an uphill climb in some places.
"You know, it takes a special community and it takes a special hospital. Not everybody is open to this, there's still a lot of stigma and discrimination around people who overdose," Campbell said.
The program is being funded by state grants.